Swimmers, take your mark

I tried out so many sports was when I was little: basketball, tennis, softball, gymnastics, cheerleading, jazz dancing, and soccer. My sister and I also took ballet and tap lessons for five years, beginning so young that we had a class that we could bring our dolls to. Our teacher would show us something, then would say, “It’s your turn Dolly!” and we would make them dance too! Even after leaving the toys behind, we still loved going every week and getting dressed up for the recitals every few months.

My sister (left, age 5) and me (right, age 6) ready for a recital

Me (left, age 6) and my sister (right, age 5) ready for a recital

I think my mom had just yelled at me for blinking in the previous picture

I think my mom had just yelled at me for blinking in the previous picture

However, we grew up in a homeowner’s association, which came with access to a nearly-empty outdoor pool. My sister and I spent most of every single summer there, not at all minding the Las Vegas heat while we paddled around on an inflatable orca, dove ten feet for pool toys, and crunched on frozen Capri Suns on the deck. Some of my best childhood memories are feeling the anticipation of summer that came with the first trip there after the winter, filling up water balloons with my best friend and caring for them like babies in the pool, and celebrating my birthdays with sea-themed parties on the adjoining lawn. Water was just part of my life.

Age six in my backyard

Age six in my backyard

My sister and I at Black Mountain, a special water park where our mom sometimes took us

My sister and I at Black Mountain, a special water park where our mom sometimes took us

When I was eight, my sister and I joined a summer swim team. Five nights a week, my parents took us to the pool around dinnertime and the lifeguards there directed our swimming while they gobbled down pizza in front of us hungry kids. Despite the trauma that inflicted on my poor empty tummy, I was doing well at the meets, especially the 100 IM event.  A combination of all four strokes, it was a daunting event, and I was one of the few swimmers who knew to save as much energy for the last half as what I used for the first part. Maybe I just had a better grasp on the limit of my bodily strength. Anyway, by the end of the summer, I had made the all-star team and then won first place in the 8-and-under girls’ 100 IM in Clark County.

That’s where my competitive swimming ended for a few years,  and I just stuck to playfully racing my friends in the neighborhood pool. Then when I was 13, I moved to Utah, and spent the better part of the school year doing my best to make new friends, despite my crippling shyness. When I heard a school announcement one morning for the high school swim team informational meeting, I didn’t think twice about going. Instead of floating around a pool the next summer, I spent it weight lifting and running stairs, and by the fall, I was racing in my first meets in five years.

The four junior high schoolers swimming for our future high school

The four junior high schoolers swimming for our future high school

I’ve been a competitive swimmer since, and both my high school and college teams are where I met my first boyfriend as well as best friends that hold that title to this day. It’s also where I learned about lifeguarding, which turned into a summer job for four years, and realized that gaining weight doesn’t matter, especially if it’s muscle. Because it permeates just about all aspects of my life, it’s where I discovered the most defining term for myself: a swimmer.


Senior year, with a fellow lifeguard and friend from another team

How did you get your start in your favorite sport or hobby?


7 thoughts on “Swimmers, take your mark

  1. I loved the story and the pictures. I love seeing pictures of people when they were little. So cute:) I first learned to sail when I was 14 and joined Sea Scouts. My grandfather was also a Sea Scout. But I didn’t start racing until I got to college.

      • Sea Scouts is a division of Boy Scouts, so technically I was a Boy Scout! I took the last 3 quarters off because my major requires internships and the schedule just wasn’t possible anymore but I have been trying to sail this quarter since it’s my last. Winter isn’t the best quarter for sailing though brrr!

  2. What wonderful pictures (I, too, love pictures of people when they were young). Your captions are also part of the story. When I was little, I have similar pictures of me in tap dance outfits. I don’t tap dance anymore, but I want to take it up again in retirement!

  3. I love the childhood pictures, Kaitlyn- so cute! Awesome reflective goggles in the fourth picture, too. I remember liking ballet for the sole reason that it involved wearing a tutu as well!

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