Blue Hill—Ava Sealander has never been a stranger to swimming.
“I’ve been swimming all my life,” she confirmed.
Sealander, who began swimming on a junior team at the Ellsworth Down East Family YMCA at age 6, has been helping lead the George Stevens Academy girls swim team to victories this season.
Sealander described the moment when a race first begins. “You dive in, and everything goes quiet for a second, before you start your stroke.” She said that just for an instant she thinks about whether or not she will get tired too early, and other worries may come to her.
But this does not last.
“Then something takes over…and you focus on the movement of arms and legs, and everything is fitting in place,” she said.
On Friday, January 9, the girls team solidly defeated Ellsworth. Sealander, a freshman, competed in four events.
She placed first in two individual events, and also helped propel GSA relay squads to first-place finishes in the 400 yard freestyle and 200 yard medley relays.
Sealander said she has developed an appreciation for competing over time.
She credited her parents with providing encouragement, since they first suggested she swim on the YMCA team years ago.
“They thought it would be something I’d like,” she said.
Sealander attended Brooklin School in her hometown, and she said there wasn’t much in the way of athletics for kids until the fourth grade, so swimming at the Y has been important.
Being on the YMCA team in Ellsworth as a youngster was “not about dropping time,” Sealander recalled. It was “just fun.”
Sealander already loved recreational swimming. She said she was drawn to the unique experience of being in the water as a young child, so swimming for sport wasn’t too far of a stretch.
But the early experience not only helped Sealander develop comfort in the water, it also introduced her to competition.
At first Sealander would get nervous about competing, she said, but fast forward to today, and things have certainly changed.
“Now I really like the adrenaline rush after finishing a race,” she revealed. “I feel like I have accomplished something.”
Sealander has grown to favor one stroke above all others: the butterfly.
“Not too many people can do it extremely well—and I don’t do it extremely well—but I can do it well,” she said.
“Something clicks,” she added. “It’s a hard stroke, but I like it.”
She took first in the 100 yard butterfly on January 9, with a time of 1:04.52, clocking in laps at 0:31.01 and 0:33.51, respectively.
She says she participates in the 100 yard butterfly often, as well as the 200 yard individual medley, which combines butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle.
The medley is more difficult, Sealander said, due to the longer distance and all of the strokes involved.
Nevertheless, she turns in good performances in the event, having placed first in the 200 yard individual medley on January 9, with an overall time of 2:24.46 and with lap times at 30.35, 37.24, 43.16 and 33.71. Her first-place finishes in the two events were repeats of earlier meets this season. When asked about what she does to prepare for events outside of swim practices, Sealander noted the importance of rest.
“I make sure I don’t put too much physical strain on my shoulders, and I get plenty of sleep,” she said. “And [I] try not to eat too much junk food.”
Sealander, who also plays soccer, keeps up with her swimming during the off-season. She swims with the Ellsworth YMCA team in late spring and early summer. There are swim meets in which to compete, she said, including a few out-of-state match-ups and one in New Brunswick, Canada.
While she enjoys the opportunity to keep swimming, as well as the occasional challenge of competing in longer pools—some pools in the league are long course, or 50 meters, versus short course pools of 25 meters—Sealander feels more at home with her team at GSA.
“We all know each other, and we are mostly all friends,” she said, adding that there is “more support” within the team.
Sealander said that she has been the only participant from the Peninsula in the YMCA league, but that at GSA, there is “more of a connection,” since she is with people she knows well and with whom she has grown up.
Looking forward, Sealander remains focused on the season.
“I really hope to do well at the next few meets…and at state,” she said. “Other than that, I hope to have fun and support my team.”