This fall, Detroit Lakes had a consistent name at or near the top in distance events during the girls swimming and diving season.

Junior Faith Hamm is headed to state in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle races and in the 400-yard freestyle relay. She was one of three Lakers who qualified for state in individual swimming events.

"I was pretty excited," Hamm said on realizing she was going to state. "I looked up at the times and was like, 'Oh, I made it.' We worked hard to get here. Practices have been hard, but we work through them."

Distance events have been in Hamm's repertoire since she started swimming 10 years ago. While she tried other events, her calling was always to swim longer races.

"I've been swimming for 10 years," Hamm said. "When I first started swimming, my coach just started putting me in (distance) events. You have to be mentally tough. If you shut yourself down mentally, then your whole body follows. You have to be able to tell yourself to keep going when it hurts."

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The commitment to her mental strength has allowed her to take steps forward in her junior season. Hamm dropped 1.43 seconds off her season-best in the 500-yard freestyle with a tie of 5:42.73. She also slashed 1.01 seconds off her season-best 200-free time at 2:02.63.

"I think the best way to cut time is to be prepared mentally," Hamm said. "I know that I just have to keep going. I have to push myself. I need to stay in my own race and not worry about how fast other people are going. I don't want to tire myself out chasing them when I need to just swim my own race."

Seven of the nine Lakers headed to state have competed at the University of Minnesota before and will use that experience to their advantage. Hamm believes the best way to go about a big meet is to stay cool under pressure.

"I think you have to go into it and try not to get too overwhelmed," Hamm said. "You have to just breathe and relax. You have to say to yourself, 'I'm here,' and realize why you're there. It's about going into that race calm and relaxed."

Hamm's 400-yard freestyle relay team, including Quinn Rogstad, Marin Westrum and Rylie Wendt, qualified with a time of 3:54.38. Hamm hopes to use the support from the people around her to have her best meet of the season.

"I earned my way there, and I know that," Hamm said on building confidence. "There are going to be girls there with faster times than me, but that doesn't mean I didn't earn a spot there. I tell myself that I deserve to be there, and that helps me relax."

"They've pushed us a lot," Hamm said of her teammates and coaches. "It's been really helpful when they tell us we can do it even when we don't think we can. It's encouraging to have my coaches and teammates supporting me."