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Long hours of misery, but the swimmers do it anyway

Seniors Andrew Indradjaja, Ben Ulvanovsky, Dominic Roberto, Sophia Chen, Grace Chen, Sophia Polyakov, Orli Peleg, and Abby Hrich celebrate their senior night (photographed by Zach Lawrence.)
Seniors Andrew Indradjaja, Ben Ulvanovsky, Dominic Roberto, Sophia Chen, Grace Chen, Sophia Polyakov, Orli Peleg, and Abby Hrich celebrate their senior night (photographed by Zach Lawrence.)

Swimming typically invokes the mental image of a solitary athlete toiling lap after lap, but the culture of the Solon High School swim team emphasizes teamwork as the key to success.

And it seems to work for them.

The team has a history of wins, from the GCC Championships to regularly achieving Top Three Status in meets and qualifying for states every year.
But the image the team projects to their peers is not of driven, tunnel-visioned athletes devoted to winning and winning only.

Rather, peers see girls with box-dyed pink and purple hair ends, guys with razor-thin buzzcuts, a select group of individuals in ridiculous outfits on meet days, and a gaggle of students enjoying a lively breakfast together in the pool pad lobby every Friday morning.

According to one team captain, Students don’t see the swim teams’ many successes, they simply see their friendship.

Sophia Polyakov, one of the team’s captains this year, gives her insight on what makes the swim team successful below.

Q: How did you feel going into your first swim meet of the year?

A: I was pretty unsure. We didn’t have a lot of girls, and I knew we probably weren’t going to win like we used to, but it turned out better than I thought because we won basically all of our events.

Q: You’ve been swimming for a long time. Have your motivations ever changed?

A: I’ve been swimming since I was six, so eleven years, and I’ve been on the Solon High School team for four years. Yeah, I would say [my motivations] have changed. It’s definitely become my goal to finish out my high school career. I feel obligated to the people on the team and the community.

Q: What do you mean by that?

A: Just that I’ve been doing it for so long that I feel a sense I need to finish out my four years on the team. If I stopped swimming, I’d be leaving behind something. If my friends were swimming, it would just be weird if I wasn’t there.

Q: What do you most look forward to when you arrive at swim practice each night?

A: Getting to talk to all of my friends and seeing everyone.

Q: What role has swimming played in your social and academic development throughout high school?

A: It’s introduced me to more people and given me a specific group of friends that I can do things with in and out of the pool. Academically, it’s taught me how to manage all my work with the other things I have to do. It’s given me better organization, because I used to be really bad at procrastinating but swimming doesn’t give you the ability to do that.

Q: What are your goals for the season?

A: My goals for this season are for the girls team to finish the meets pretty strong, and my personal goal is to make it to districts.

Q: How often are practices?

A: Every day. We have morning practices twice a week either on Fridays and Monday or Wednesday mornings. Afternoons are every day after school from 3:00 to 6:15 and we also have Saturday practices 8:00 to 10:00 [a.m.]. Tough schedule.

Q: Swimming is an intense and grueling sport. What makes you stick with it?

A: I have a lot of friends on the team, and it gives me a lot of great experiences that I wouldn’t get anywhere else. There is a team environment. Even when it’s hard, everyone is going through it together.

Q: Tell me your favorite memory from high school swimming.

A: Winning the GCC Championship three years in a row. My freshman year, we hadn’t won it for 10 years, and it was pretty cool as it was my first year on the team to be able to contribute to our win. We won it the year after that, and my junior year as well. Generally, I love talking and laughing between sets as well as going out to eat after meets and practices. Also, we shaved our coach’s head one time. That’s a pretty good memory. Not his beard. Just his head. Though I think the beard needed to go, though, more than anything.

Q: How has this year been different from previous years of the swim team?

A: We have fewer girls. We’ve never really been a big team, but we had about seven senior girls graduate last year, so our team, including swimmers and divers, is about 11 people. It’s definitely been an adjustment at meets. We’ve always been a pretty strong team, but this year it seems as if we don’t have the people to make up the points. We have had one meet, that was the highlight of our season so far, and in our conference we came in third out of eighteen with seven swimmers and four divers, so that is pretty cool. This year has been different but it hasn’t been bad. Less pressure for sure. Our coach focuses a lot more on the boys, as there are way more this year, and just wants us to do our best.

Q: What have you done as captain to change the team this year?

A: With our team hangouts, we’ve definitely tried to incorporate the divers more. We have three new divers this year and Sasha from last year, and we have been pretty good at getting everyone to come when we go out as a team. It makes everyone closer as we are such a small team of girls.

Q: How do you think the nature of swimming, an individual sport, contributes to the team environment and the friendships you create there?

A: Obviously, the races are individual, but you always have people cheering for you and you always have people asking you if that was a good time for you or congratulating you on a good swim. Even with meets where the goal isn’t team points, people still want to know your times and still will be happy for you if you drop time. Also, we still have relays, and each race counts for points. I’ve seen the boys team really cheer for their swimmers and be really motivated because one person winning their race can win the meet.

Q: If the swim team has gained one thing from your leadership, what do you most hope that it is?

A: I hope that it’s the ability to speak up for yourself. I just think that you should be able to voice your mind and your voice matters on the team. Just because someone is in a higher position than you doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree with what they say. Personally, I do speak up sometimes, and I hope everyone has fun this year.

Q: What is one lesson you have learned from being on the team?

A: I’ve definitely learned patience and not letting things get to me and to focus on the positive. Swimming is a really hard sport, and it would be pretty hard to do if all you focused on was how tired you are. You have to find the fun in every practice and try to laugh and talk to people. It’s taught me about sometimes walking away from a situation too. Also, it really is mind over matter. That sounds cringe, but you need to take your mind off of things sometimes to help you get through the practices.

Q: If you could tell anything to someone thinking about joining the team, what would it be?

A: Don’t let the workload be the one thing that turns you away. It is a really hard sport, but people like it and find things that they like in it. Don’t just look at the practice schedule and the time commitment and say no, you should definitely try it out.

Q: Describe the swim team in three words.

A: Commitment, rewarding, goofy.

Q: What are some of the traditions that your team does?

A: We have pasta dinners every week, mostly. The girls, we do goal stars where we decorate these cut out gold stars with our goals for the season and our names and it’s really fun. We also have a scavenger hunt each year where we dress up. Our themes this year were FBI Agents, Dads, and just like…men. It was really fun.

Q: Is there anything else readers should know about the swim team?

A: The practice schedule is more manageable than you think, it seems really intimidating but once you’ve done it for a while you figure out a way to do it. I think it is what you make of it, if that makes sense. There’s a lot of good to swimming.

Grace Chen, another swim team captain, shares more about the team in the video below.

If you wish to join the SHS swim team, please contact Coach Perchinske at [email protected].

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