Paul Valencia: Swimmers answer early wake-up call

Commentary: Paul Valencia

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Maddie Green wakes up at 3:15.

In the morning.

On purpose, even.

"Because it's an hour away and I need a little time to wake up before I drive here," she said at 5 a.m. Monday, just moments before getting into the pool at LaCamas Swim and Sport.

Good safety tip. Don't drive drowsy.

Not everyone wakes so soon. Some have to psyche themselves up for what is in store.

"It's hard getting out of bed knowing the water is going to be cold," sophomore Sarah Kirn said.

Difficult, but not impossible. Demanding, but not overwhelming.

These are swimmers. If they wanted an easy sport, they'd play football.

(Just kidding, football. You know I love you.)

But football, basketball, and athletes in a lot of sports would have to agree that it takes a special kind of commitment to make it to practice at 5 a.m. And rare is the day when a swim meet attracts a huge fan base. They train at oh-dark-thirty, and they compete in front of dozens, not thousands, of fans during the regular season.

Yet, they always show.

Whenever.

Wherever.

Green, a junior, lives in the outskirts of Woodland. Kirn attends Seton Catholic. They compete as part of the North County program in high school swimming and practice with the Camas High School swimmers at LaCamas. In the past, practice was in the afternoon, after school. This school year, early morning was the available pool time.

Swimmers acknowledge some days are tougher than others, but they do it, pretty much, without complaint.

"I just love swimming and competing so it's all kind of worth it," Kirn said.

"It is a hardship, but it's worth it," Green said. "I just love swimming."

Talia Orelli, a sophomore from Battle Ground, said she is a night owl who typically does not go to bed early. She normally gets about four or five hours of sleep.

"You gotta do what you gotta do," she said, adding it takes discipline and dedication to be a swimmer.

Brittany Worley, a senior from Camas, says she is one of the lucky ones.

"I only live up the hill," she said.

Even if it is a short commute, even if she can sleep in longer than those coming from Woodland or Battle Ground, the alarm still screams early.

"At first, I didn't know if I was going to be able do this. Swimming is a whole different thing at 5 a.m.," Worley said. "Once we started doing it, it was OK."

She even noticed some benefits. No practice after school means more free time for other activities.

Swimmers do not own exclusive rights to early practices. For example, there are high school gymnastics teams in the winter that also get going long before the sun rises. It is the sacrifice that is made by athletes in sports that require private facilities off campus.

A lot of swimmers and gymnasts understand the drill. With either high school or club sports, a coach tells them a time and they show up.

"It takes commitment. It takes time management," swim coach Mike Bemis said. "For our younger kids, it takes a willing family to have someone getting up and getting you here."

Waking so early and making it to practice might seem like a tough challenge.

But again, these are swimmers.

"We come when we're called," Prairie junior Keiko Inouye said. "I am dedicated to my sport."

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valencia@columbian.com. Follow him on Twitter @360paulv