I started swimming before I could walk and began swimming competitively when I was eight. From the beginning, I knew it would be a part of my life forever, so by the time I got to high school, I was antsy to join the high school team. While I knew I would enjoy it simply because it’s the sport I loved, I didn’t know the lasting effect it would have on my life.
Right around the time I got to high school, I was starting to “burn out” from swimming. I hadn’t been swimming up to my standard for a while and started to dislike the sport. I spitefully dragged myself to practices because I had no other choice, swam in meets disappointed with my times, and even talked to my parents about “taking a break” from swimming. But high school swimming turned that around.
My freshman year started with nerves and excitement. Despite the fact that I wasn’t happy with swimming at the time, I was eager to join the high school team. The team was full of starpower: growing up I had seen Grace Countie and Ashley McCauley swimming in club meets, and was blown away by their times. These girls were competing in at some of the highest levels of swimming, winning states titles and representing team USA — to me they were like celebrities. I couldn’t wait to get to swim with them, and being the freshman I wanted to be accepted, so I wanted to swim my fastest and impress them.
I still remember my first high school meet. I was blown away by the energy of the team, and was excited to race for the first time in a while. I wasn’t swimming for myself anymore, I was swimming for the team. I started on a relay with Grace, Ashley, and Anna Carrigan, and surprised myself with how fast I went. I also won the 100 butterfly and was so excited to represent Leesville. I remembered how fun it was to race, and loved the team atmosphere that Leesville had developed.
Going into my first high school championship season for Leesville, I was nervous out of my mind. I swam fast in the regular season, and there was a high expectation for me to perform well. Once I got to regionals and states, however, my nerves dissolved. The girls on the team made it fun, and I wasn’t worried about performing badly. I remember at States my freshman year Grace Countie gave us a pep talk before walking out for the relay. She goofed around and made jokes, having us all laughing before we swam. Her jokes helped calm us down, and really made me feel like I was a part of the team. We went on to win that relay–my first state championship– reminding me how fun swimming could be. My biggest takeaway from freshman season was focusing on having fun first, and trusting that the fast times will come.
My sophomore year I really began to get close with the other girls on the team. I truly felt like a part of the team and spent most of the first semester antsy for high school swimming to start. That year, I anticipated the excitement that was to come. While I had set a high expectation for myself the year prior, I wasn’t overly stressed, and just wanted to do my best for the sake of the team. Sophomore year, it seemed like the women’s team might have a chance at winning states. Hungry for the team title, I swam my heart out, winning my first individual state title in the 100 butterfly. I just wanted to do my part as a member of the team and help us secure the state title. While we came up short again, state runner-ups for the second year in a row, that year I learned the importance of investing in the team.
Junior year we were ready to finally win a state championship. After two years in a row of being runner-ups, we had had enough and wanted to win more than anything. That year was likely our last chance for a while– we were graduating more than ten seniors, all of which had a significant impact on the team. In fact, that senior class had six girls committed to D1 swimming programs and had only lost two swim meets in their entire high school careers (which just so happened to be high school states). The team title came down to the very last event, and because the other team disqualified on their last relay, the Pride women finally got the title they had always wanted. That year I learned the value of persistence, and the heightened value of winning when it’s with people you care about.
Before I knew it, I entered my senior season on the team. After such a successful first three years, I wasn’t sure how much was left. The team was much younger than the year before, full of eager freshmen to replace the past seniors who had graduated. Being senior year, I just wanted to soak up every last second of my high school swimming career. Using a lesson I learned freshman year, I just tried to have as much fun as I could. While the women’s team wasn’t as talented as it was the year before, I still had fun, and also got to see the men’s team begin to pick up the momentum the women left the year prior.
I’ve been swimming competitively since I was eight, so I’m no stranger to swimming. High school swimming, however, is a completely different sport– filled with fun, teamwork, and excitement. I’m so thankful for the lessons it has taught me, and will always remember swimming for the Pride.