First-year team member shifts focus toward new goals

Caraline Trecha

Shelby Smith
Senior Shelby Smith stands on a starting block at Hickman High School during practice as she gets ready to swim laps. Smith began swimming for the high school team her senior year after competing on the golf team for all four years. Smith said she enjoys making new friends and getting her workout in during her early morning practices. Photo by Halley Hollis
Senior Shelby Smith experienced new waters when she joined the swim team for the first time. After spending summer mornings swimming laps at the Columbia Country Club pool, Smith decided to carry out her swimming season.
“I haven’t swam in a long time,” Smith said. “I initially started swimming again because I wanted to get in better shape.”
Growing up, Smith’s favorite sports were swimming and golfing, so it was an easy decision for her to join the swim team. A member of the Lady Bruin golf team all four years of high school, she enjoyed the bonds she made on the golf course.
“I always looked forward to golf season,” Smith said. “I loved spending the afternoons with the girls and getting to know new faces each year. I thought that swimming would be another way to meet new faces and to continue to participate in Rock Bridge athletics.”
One thing Smith worried about was making new friends and starting relationships with the coaches and teammates. Luckily for Smith, she fit right in with the swimmers.
“I was nervous because all the girls swim year-round, and I don’t, so they are already really close,” Smith said. “But thankfully they are all extremely nice, and it wasn’t hard to open up to them and become friends.”
Sophomore Kortney Betz said Smith has no trouble adjusting to the new environment because of her optimistic attitude.
“Shelby is really funny and is always positive,” Betz said. “If we’re getting nervous Shelby is always there to calm us down.”
Like most first-year swimmers, Smith was worried about her first meet. Smith was mainly concerned watching her false starts so she wouldn’t get disqualified.
“The first meet was exhilarating,” Smith said. “I was extremely nervous for my events. I was thinking about everything that I couldn’t do so that I would avoid being disqualified.”
Smith was swimming the 200 IM, which meant she had to start with a 50 butterfly, one of her less experienced strokes.
“I knew how tiring fly was,” Smith said. “I became more nervous.”
The buzzer sounded and Smith’s reaction time was a little slower than anticipated. Luckily, she said she made up for it in the race and pushed herself as hard as she could.
“I dove in and swam it all,” Smith said. “By the last 50, my muscles were twitching, and I could barely get out of the pool because I had to put all my energy into swimming. It was exhausting.”
Smith did not get disqualified as she feared. With practice, her fears and times are decreasing.
“It’s a really good feeling that I continue to do better in my meets,” Smith said. “I am realizing that my practice and hard work is paying off, and that is the best feeling any athlete can get out of competitions.”
Now that she is becoming more acquainted with how the meets are structured and she has been able to bond with her team, Smith enjoys competing even more.
“After the first meet, I decided I loved the meets because everyone was cheering for me and being very supportive,” Smith said. “Now that I am nearing the end of my season, the meets are [the] difference since the overnights, and I enjoy bonding with the other girls on my team. Also, cheering on my teammates helps to make me less nervous before each event.”
Not only is Smith pleased with her performance but her coach has also been impressed. Coach Karen Steger said Smith works tremendously hard in practice, facilitating her great improvements.
“Shelby is one of the few first year swimmers that we have been able to put in the 200 IM — one of our harder events,” Steger said. “She swam it for only the second time this weekend, and she has dropped 11 seconds.”
But decreasing time doesn’t stop Smith from wanting to improve.
“Dropping times is a good feeling because it shows how I’m improving and getting in shape week by week.”
With her positive attitude and eagerness to get in shape, Smith’s motivation is more than an asset to the team.
“She is very concerned about what she needs to do better, and is always wanting to improve,” Steger said. “She has a great attitude and is probably one of the most liked swimmers on the team. I wish she would be here longer.”
Nearing the end of the season, Smith’s goals for this year have changed a bit. Although she is enjoying the exercise part and is continuing to strive to decrease her times, Smith is mostly fond of meeting new people and creating memories she will never forget.
“My new goal would not only be to keep dropping my times but also to continue making new friends since I didn’t know many people from Hickman [High School] before I joined the team,” Smith said. “Also just to have fun because even though I don’t like waking up in the early morning, it’s enjoyable to hang out with the other girls, and I am really hoping our friendships continue once the season is over.”
By Caraline Trecha