By: Lily Criswell and Tracy Truong
Swimming is one of the most difficult sports. Swimmers have to use every part of their body – from their arms to their legs. It definitely requires a lot of self-control and technique, especially considering how difficult it is to hold your breath underwater for extended periods of time.
Keegan Near is a competitive swimmer for Rocky Mountain High School. Not only are there different types of swimming styles, but there are different distances as well.
“There's breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle, and backstroke. I specialize mainly in backstroke and freestyle. For distances, it's anywhere between 50 and 1650 yards. I mainly do 50’s, two 50’s, and two 100 yards,” explained Keegan.
Keegan began swimming at a very young age all because of her sister.
“I was two when I started and I was seven when I started competitively swimming. My sister has always been the type to do every sport, so she began swimming. She caught on pretty quick, so my parents thought that they should put me in it too.”
Even when Keegan is in class, she shows off her skills.
“I really enjoy her in class – she's very smart and tends to be on the quiet side, but when she knows her stuff, she’ll raise her hands and she's on it. We play a game called grudge ball (a review game for tests where students compete against each other and create alliances to win extra credit) and she tends to get very competitive and use those long arms like she does in swimming,” said Mrs. Kerns, MMACHS’s health science teacher and HOSA advisor.
It takes a lot of drive for Keegan to dedicate herself to years of swimming. She cited her biggest inspiration to be her coach.
“My coach actually moved here from China. She lived in a camp for swimming and they did very little school there. They would give her rations, and whatever she had left she would take back to her family on the weekends. She swam in pools that were so gross the kids would play hide and seek in the murky water. She had never even worn goggles until she went to the Olympics.”
Keegan enjoys swimming because it has benefitted so many aspects of her life. One aspect is her social life – she has created very close bonds and friendships.
“I think all my closest friends are from swimming. One of my favorite things during practice is chatting with my friends. After every single practice, the whole entire team just sits in the hot tub and talks.”
Another aspect is her physical health. Not only is swimming a mental break from stress, it can also be soothing on the muscles and joints.
“I've heard that [swimming] is really good for your joints, and it really works out because I have pretty bad joints. I have problems with my knees and my hips, so if they hurt really bad that day, I'll go to practice and feel a lot better after,” expressed Keegan.
Believe it or not, there are definitely some mental challenges when it comes to swimming as a sport.
“If you have a bad coach, your brain is like ‘I can't do this anymore.’ You have to force yourself not to breathe and keep your head under water. Your arms will feel like they've been lit on fire and everything just hurts – but you have to keep going. When you have a bad coach, you just don't have the mental strength. However, when you have a good coach, you can focus on your technique and not strain yourself as much.”
For those of you who are thinking about swimming competitively, Keegan has some advice for you.
“Try to find a team that suits you because that'll make swimming a lot easier and fun. If you're with the team that you like and they're swimming, it encourages you to swim too.”