The swim season is underway at St. Helens High School, and senior Molly Wheeldon is looking forward to competition that is scheduled to stretch into mid-February.
A lifelong resident of St. Helens, Wheeldon has been on the swim squad during her entire stay at the high school.
Wheeldon is hardly a newcomer to the sport.
"I've been swimming almost my whole life," she said. "I started off just doing swim lessons at our local pool (Eisenschmidt Pool), which I now work at. My sister and I joined the club team, the Sea Lions Swim Team, when I was 8."
Currently, Wheeldon teaches swim lessons at the St. Helens pool.
The high school senior likes the fact swimming is both an individual endeavor and a team sport.
"I would say it's a pretty solid 50/50 split between individual and team," Wheeldon said. "We are all very close to one another. We have to work as a team in order to win the events, because the events are based off of a point scale, so we have to get to a certain point to win the meet and beat the other team."
Wheeldon continued, "But it is cool because it's also definitely an individual sport as well, because I can work to push myself harder and to better my individual times for my races. It's really cool, because it's definitely a split between the two."
As with many competitive sports, swimming requires a weekly, if not daily, time commitment.
"I notice if I don't swim for a week, and I get back into it, it just feels weird — I feel off," Wheeldon said. "It's definitely a sport to keep up every day and practice every day."
With the pandemic, last season was held during the warmer months, but oddly enough, this presented some advantages for swimmers.
"Our season was in a totally different time of the year," she said. "It became more like a spring sport, which was definitely different for swimmers, because we're used to driving through the snow to get to practice. This time, we were able to go on hikes and we could swim in rivers and stuff."
Wheeldon noted, "It was hard at times, just because of COVID, but it was also a pretty cool experience because we got to do some team bonding and swim in natural waters, which we never get to do during this time of the year."
Looking at her current swim team, Wheeldon pointed out a freshman, Ellen Nairn, who could become a mainstay for St. Helens over the next few seasons.
"She is a huge asset to the team," Wheeldon said. "She has been swimming on all of the relays. I really hope that she sticks with it all four years, because she has already improved so much, and it's so cool to see somebody dedicate time that she does as a freshman."
Wheeldon is not certain about her college plans, although she hopes to become a doctor one day. However, no matter what path her life takes her, Wheeldon does not want to give up on swimming.
"I'm definitely thinking about swimming in college," she said. "I've been recruited by Pacific University. I might swim for them, I'm just not sure of where I want to go.
"But if I don't end up swimming for them, then I'll definitely still be swimming either on a club team or just by myself. I definitely want to continue the sport somehow."
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Wheeldon has plenty of confidence.
"I'm feeling really good," she said. "I think we have a super-strong group of girls. We already have enough that we can do two full relays."
Wheeldon continued, "We can go at it and win with those relay teams, which is really awesome. I think we have a really strong group this year."
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