Frank DeMaria calls Libby Staver an aerobic machine.

When DeMaria took over as the Pleasant Valley girls swimming and diving coach last season, he created some grueling workouts in practice that almost were designed to have his swimmers fail.

"She's tough to make tired," DeMaria said. "She might not necessarily like what we're doing, but she can take anything I throw at them."

Raised in a swimming household — her brother is in his senior season at Missouri and her sister is in her sophomore year at Eastern Michigan — Staver is preparing for the final chapter of her high school career this weekend at the state meet in Marshalltown.

There have been peaks — four top-five finishes at state — and some valleys. She's gone through multiple coaching changes at PV and even left the team during her sophomore year before returning last season.

"If I could have done things differently, I definitely would have stayed with the team and finished out the season," Staver said. "With every challenge comes a lesson, and that was definitely a growing and learning experience."

Staver started in gymnastics before moving to swimming at age 7. Much of that was the influence of her siblings, Nick and Ali.

"Swimming looked more fun," Staver said. "Both are very time-consuming and require physical discipline. You can't rely on other people to do the work for you. If you want to be successful, it falls on you."

She gravitated toward the distance events at an early age. She was swimming the mile at age 9 and 10.

"Just racing older kids and being able to say I could do stuff other people my age weren't doing at the time, that's how I got my foot into distance," Staver said.

Staver has been one of the state's top distance performers.

She was the state runner-up in the 500 freestyle as a freshman (5 minutes, 2.49 seconds) and took fifth last year (5:02.59). She was in the state's top eight in the 200 free as a freshman and junior.

"Everyone is kind of wired one way or another," DeMaria said. "You can train a lot of that, but either you're more fast-twitched or more of an aerobic machine. She's always had that aerobic endurance."

There have been moments of frustration, but her passion for the sport has kept her afloat.

Staver said the drastic change in personalities between coaches and the vast difference in workouts have been challenging.

"There have definitely been low points you have to get through, but what it really comes down to is the love for it," she said. "You have to bring yourself back to that, and what you're here for and why you're doing this."

That's why Staver will continue swimming beyond this year.

Within the last month, Staver gave a verbal commitment to Wyoming.

"It didn't feel right to end it right now," Staver said. "No matter the ups and downs of swimming, it feels like it always has been a part of my life, and I'm not ready to let that go yet."

Staver said her decision boiled down to Wyoming and Cleveland State.

She formed a connection early with the Wyoming staff, thanks to an email she received from assistant Dave Denniston inquiring about the program.

"There was just an excited tone to it, almost like honor in his voice," Staver said.

Staver never had been to Laramie, Wyoming, until her official visit.

"I'm definitely an outdoors person, and it was beautiful," she said.

First, Staver is savoring the final minutes of her time at PV.

More than focused on place at the state meet, Staver is concentrating on times. In particular, she is eyeing personal bests.

Staver's fastest 500 free time is 4:58 in club season. Her best 200 free is 1:52.6 at last year's state-qualifying meet.

With the proper taper, Staver believes she can establish new benchmarks this weekend.

"We've addressed some of the glitches in our training last year," Staver said. "We've been working on more technique training along with aerobic and pace. I think we're on a better path than we were before."

Even though her best times may not show it yet, Staver said she has improved significantly since the time she walked in as a freshman.

"Before, I kind of had more of a chaotic freestyle stroke," she said. "With Frank's help, he's taught me to do stroke counts so we can be more efficient."

DeMaria has seen an athlete receptive to coaching.

"A lot of times with athletes as talented as she is, you don't have to reinvent the wheel," DeMaria said. "It is little tweaks, being a little bit more connected, a little bit more stable and stronger in areas.

"It is more detail-driven."

Staver also will swim the butterfly on PV's 200 medley relay and anchor the 400 freestyle relay.

Powered by Staver, DeMaria believes his team can finish in the top seven.

"When you have someone like Libby, it elevates everyone else on the team," DeMaria said. "She makes everyone around her better."

Ultimately, swimming has been about one thing for Staver.

"The main thing I'm looking for in a sport is to have fun," she said. "When I swim my best, I'm calm and having fun.

"Regardless of some of the rough patches, the high school (swim) season always has been fun."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.