Payton Hill's ambitions to become great at her craft as a swimmer began at the age of 11.
She became truly inspired when she witnessed her uncle, Khyle Hill, compete on the highest level with a first-place finish in the 50 freestyle at the Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State Swim Meet in 2012.
It was her motivation, her inspiration and her dream to match what Khyle accomplished during his career at Miami High School.
“She became familiar with the sport through her uncle,” Payton's mother and lay coach, Angel Hill, said. “She went to his All-State meet in 2012 and as she was sitting in the stands watching him swim she thought, 'Well I can do that.'”
Payton reached the same top level as Khyle on July 24 when she represented the East in the OCA All-State Swim Meet at the Jenks Trojans Aquatic Center.
She finished second in two individual events, the 50 and 100 freestyle, anchored the 200 freestyle relay, and was a member of the 200 medley relay.
"All-State was a great experience," Payton said. "I was very pleased with my individual swims at the All-State meet and I am very honored that I was able to represent Grove and the east side of the state while I was there."
The relay events were entirely a new experience for her.
"I finally had the opportunity to swim on a few relays with some friends I've made on other teams and we had a lot of fun," Payton said.
Payton finished behind Norman North's Claire Liu in both the 50 and 100. Her final time in the 50 was a 27.78, and she swam a 1:04.60 in the 100.
Payton, who is also coached by her father, Darrin Hill, is the only swimmer Grove High School has ever had. Like Payton in Grove, Khyle was the first swimmer on the high school level in Miami.
She spent many days, as often as three or four times a week, traveling to Webb City (Missouri) and Neosho (Missouri) to train.
“It was fun to watch her fulfill a goal of hers and compete at a high level,” Angel said. “She's always been very dedicated in whatever she does, whether it be swimming, academics or anything else.”
The four-time state qualifier recorded a personal best time in the 50 freestyle at the state meet in February with a 25.58. She finished her high school career with four medals.
"I loved competing at the high school level and I'm very happy with what I was able to accomplish in those four years," Payton said.
Payton would like nothing more than to see Grove evolve into a school that has a swim team. She hopes her achievements will open the door for others to follow like it did for Khyle in Miami.
"I am happy I could share the sport of swimming and the community throughout my high school career," Payton said. "I hope Grove can eventually have an indoor pool so that the high school can have a swim team and experience this amazing sport like I was able to."
Payton is currently swimming for the Berzerkers USA Swim Team at the Arkansas State Championships in Fort Smith where she competed this past weekend.
“She set a goal for herself and went after it,” Angel said. “She trained hard and it's just been satisfying for us to watch her.”
Payton plans to attend Oklahoma State University and plans to swim as a member of the student-organized swim club.