The Oviedo High School Lions Swim and Dive Team girls and boys teams both got third place overall at the State Championship Class 4A meet in November where they also took home some individual wins.
The Oviedo City Council recognized the students at a Feb. 7 meeting for their hard work and performance this past season.
“After 27 years of coaching swimming in Oviedo, it’s not common, don’t get comfortable with it,” OHS Swim Coach Charlie Rose told the Council about the accomplishment. “This is a great wave we are riding right now, but it’s not something that’s easy to do. It’s pretty incredible.”
The student athletes train four to five hours a day during the fall season to prepare for competitions. They usually wake up at 5 a.m. to do weights and then hit the pool.
While some just compete with the school during the winter season, others train year round with a local private club called the Blue Dolfins.
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They go to class after morning practice with their hair still wet, smelling like chlorine, but Kaylin Herbet said she feels satisfied because she is doing what she loves.
OHS junior Herbet felt exhausted at the FHSAA Swimming & Diving State Championships in Stuart, because she was feeling sick and was stressed about not meeting her swimming goals, but she did not give up. As soon as she won the 100-freestyle individual race at the competition and she saw her dad, it was all worth it.
“My dad came on the pool deck, and when I saw him, I just burst out crying because I was so relieved. I was relieved not because it was over, but because I felt like I met the expectation that I had set for myself, and I didn’t know if I could do it.”
She said her parents are the ones to credit for her success. They enrolled her in swimming classes when she was 5 years old.
“They’ve just been there for me through everything, and I don’t think I could have done it without them,” Herbet said.
Her family is full of swimmers — her 18 years old twin siblings swim for Florida State University and her younger sibling, who is 13 years old, swims with the Blue Dolfins Club.
She tried a couple of other sports through her school years, but she always came back to swimming. When she went to high school, she realized that it was what she wanted to do.
“My mom always called it the dark side. You know, once you go over the dark side, you can’t go back. It’s almost addicting for me with the feeling of working your body to the limits and having that commitment to something,” Herbet said.
Herbet is not the only swim team member who has swimming in her roots.
Andrew Christensen, another senior who was part of the 400-freestyle relay win, said that for him, swimming is a legacy. Both of his parents were swimmers.
Christensen said that something that motivated him when he started on the swim team was encouragement from the seniors on the team and his parents.
“I just want to say thanks for believing in me, even when there have been lows,” Christensen said to his parents. “Thanks for always being positive, even when I don’t have a great race.”
Christensen wasn’t the only one drawn to swimming for the community it offered.
Ryan Reynolds, an OHS senior on the team who won the 400 yard freestyle relay and set a new school record, said that swimming is more than just a sport for him. It’s part of who he is.
“It’s definitely a unique sport. It requires a lot of grit and even though it is considered an individual sport, there is a bond that unites everyone on the team,” Reynolds said. “A lot of our teammates we have been swimming with for seven, eight years. Some longer than that. So, they are like our best friends.”
He started swimming when he was 6 years old. His parents enrolled him in swimming lessons because he would not concentrate on playing team sports.
Reynolds said that one of the reasons he kept going with the sport was because his parents would not let him quit. Eventually he realized that if he worked hard, he could go faster and be better, which made him like swimming more. Making friends and having the feeling of community further endeared him to the sport.
Even though Reynolds loves swimming, he decided not to continue in college. He said last spring he started feeling burned out and he realized it was not something he wanted to continue to do.
“It was a difficult decision. It was one of the more difficult ones I’ve ever had to make,” Reynolds said, adding that he had gotten sick during a lot of his meets and wasn’t able to give his best. “Swimming requires so much grit and when you’re underachieving your own goals, it’s much more difficult to go back and keep going.”
Others on the team can identify with the struggle it can be to find a place in swimming.
Gabrielle Goodwin, also a junior at OHS, won the 500 yard freestyle at the State Championship and set a new school record, but she said that swimming was not always easy for her.
“When I was younger, it was definitely something I was not fantastic at. It took me a long time to really figure out my rhythm and figure out what I was good at,” she said.
Goodwin said that her parents have always supported her. One of the reasons she came to Oviedo High was to swim on the team and train with Coach Rose, whom she credits for helping her find her groove.
She said that her growth in the sport has been a product of hard work and perseverance and she advises other high schoolers that are pursuing swimming to not give up.
“It’s going to be challenging no matter what and you have to be able to fight through every battle that you have because, in the end, it’s going to be worth it,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin wasn’t the only one on the team who came to OHS with an eye on the swim team.
Ryan Walker, a sophomore and a part of the 400-freestyle relay winning team, said he chose to transfer to Oviedo High to swim.
His mom drives two hours a day from their home in Orange County, making four total trips to the OHS for school and practice. He said she also cooks special meals when it is competition time to help him perform his best.
“My parents show up to every swim meet and they always record my races,” Walker said. “It’s nice to have someone that no matter what is supporting you and never has anything negative to say.”
He believes that all the effort from him and his parents will be worth it in the end. Even though swimming is a tough sport, he said that it feels natural for him, like walking.
Walker said that one of the hardest things for athletes is to remember why they are there and why they want to be better.
“I’d like to set an example for someone who might be struggling too. Maybe they want to find a reason why they are there,” Walker said.
“I want to be someone they can look up to. So that they can find a reason to still give their best.”