The first whistle sounds. She steps up on to the block with determination in her eyes and fierce readiness. “Swimmers take your mark,” the ref yells.
She starts with a flawless dive off the block into the cool, blue water, starting the 200 freestyle, the water chopping like the ocean as arms of swimmers cut into it as fast as they can. Pacing herself with powerful, effective hold on the water senior Amanda Oliver powers across the pool with sharp precision, every stroke a perfect high elbow. After 200 yards, Oliver ends the race in a personal victory, breaking her record with a 1:58.69, an automatic CIF qualifier.
Swimming the eight laps of a 200 yard freestyle might sound like torture for most people, but for Oliver, it’s rigorous enjoyment.
Seven years of hard work and dedication have led Oliver to two years of team MVP, a PAC 7 league championship in the 200 freestyle. She has also received PAC-7 All League honors and is on the road to CIF again this year.
And to think, she almost gave it all up. In 2012, Oliver experienced a hard time on her club team, Paso Aquatics Club (PAC), with the coaching and environment in which she had been placed. Oliver contemplated ending her swim career and took a break for 3 months. A bit later, she realized that she belonged in the pool.
“I’m so used to working out and seeing my friends that I got really grumpy and realized that swim practice helped me be happier and as boring as it is to stare at a line for two and a half hours every day, that line is attracting me,” Oliver said.
Where teammates are typically a big part of being on any team, swimming with your head underwater isn’t much of a social sport. Practices can last for hours and thousands of yards with the athlete’s eyes glued to the black stripe. Minimal talking happens while swimming.
“Its definitely a love hate relationship but I like being able to not hear nayone else when I swim. My favorite part is discovering how strong I can be” Olver said.
Getting away from the seriousness of the sport is often necessary to create the best memories with teammates. Co-captains and seniors Taylor Page and Simon Schoenauer keep the mood light. The pair frequently crack jokes and hand out cheesy pick up lines, something that Oliver appreciates. Oliver swims year-round with Page and Schoenauer on PAC, Paso Aquatics Club, their club team, and their goofiness always brings a smile to her face.
“My favorite team aspect is when we are at a meet, and we are all cheering for each other and warming up, getting ready together. We most definitely don’t always get along, but it’s much like a family: we work hard to make things work, Oliver said.
Oliver received the prestigious Lions Club Award last swim season. Only one swimmer is elected from each team and Oliver feels honored to know that her peers felt that she deserved this award designed for athletes that exhibit outstanding leadership and sportsmanship qualities.
“Amanda is no doubt the hardest working person on the team.It’s actually annoying how fast she goes on some of the sets but it makes me and other work hard to beat her or even keep up with her. Without Amanda it would be way harder to put in the amount of effort that I do during a swim practice,” said Schoenauer, one of Oliver’s co-captains.
Oliver has been coached by Jenn Brown year round for about two years now. Oliver admits that Brown can push the team a little hard at times, but believes that that is what a coach is supposed to do to prepare an elite team.
“She pushes us just enough so that we can make ourselves better,” Oliver said about Coach Jenn’s style.
The varsity swim team swims approximately 5000 yards per practice averaging at 30000 yards per week. Morning practices are offered four days a week and at least two attendances at 5 a.m. is required. Oliver often attends more practices than necessary to perfect her freestyle and butterfly.
“Amanda’s work ethic and commitment is second to none,” Coach Brown said.
Brown believes that Oliver is one of the most valuable assets to the team because of her ability to be both physically and mentally tough along with having an extremely positive attitude. Brown chose Oliver as a team captain along with Page, Schoenauer, and Senior Laileha Vermy. These four were chosen not only on their skill but commitment to the team and attitude.
This May, Oliver will be closing out her 400,000 yard, 182 hour, and 17 meet this season ending her senior year and spring sport season with her passion .