Don’t call me a quitter

Abigail Waechter | Managing Editor

I am many things, but a quitter is not one.

For as long as I can remember, people have always characterized me and swimming as one, like my whole essence was built upon what I did in the pool. In fifth grade, I loved being asked what sport I played because I would have an answer: “swimming.” People knew me because I swam, and that’s just how it was.

Freshman year, I was determined to make a name for myself as it was my first year in a public high school, where swimming was actually recognized. I pushed the limits I didn’t even know could be pushed, like training the muscles in my forearm to catch the prime amount of water for my stroke. I trained at a level that I had never even heard of before: two practices a day on top of an hour of lifting. Freshman year, swimming became no longer just a physical skill, but a mental one as well, and it was great.

I was one of the seven allowed onto the varsity team, and was one of the two freshmen that made the team. I practiced in a lane with two NCAA Division I commits, and thought it was the most enjoyable experience a swimmer could have. I had a coach who knew how to push me, and could throw me off by switching their coaching style.

When I moved sophomore year, I looked forward to leaving a legacy on a new program. I obsessed over swimming after I moved, because it was the only thing I had in Ohio. I didn’t have friends that summer, I had swimming. I would practice with my brother, and trained for a Regional meet by myself, and managed to place despite not having a coach or other athletes to push me.

When the normal Ohio club season started, I quickly began giving it my all, forcing the coaches to know my name. Although I wasn’t in the highest group, I began dropping time left and right, swimming times comparable to people two groups above me.

Ohio’s high school season was a rush for me. I had to fight for my Sectionals spot, and defend it all season long. I held the spots for the 100 fly and 500 free, two back-to-back events all season, knocking profound upperclassmen out of their spots.

Then I discovered that I am not just a swimmer.

There is so much more to me besides swimming. Sophomore year, I made friends that weren’t swimmers for the first time. I discovered my passion for writing, and actually having fun. I discovered that swimming wasn’t actually fun anymore, it was just my life, and I accepted that.

Junior year, however, when I was accepted into the school newspaper, the Chronicle, I found what made me happy again, and what I could push myself in just like I did for swimming. I was no longer just a swimmer, I was a person.

But it was when I decided to take a step back from swimming for my mental health when people started using the term quitter.

Taking a step back does not equate to quitting. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar hosted by author and former ESPN Sports Writer, Kate Fagan. The quote that I chose to write down was something that I carried with me throughout my journey of struggles: “People hold this idea that if you press pause on something, then you’re out of the loop, but that’s not how it is, it’s not the right equation.”

She’s entirely correct, and we need to understand that. My version of taking a step back may look different, it may be atypical, but I never left. I am still here, I am still the same swimmer who will be back next season, I just choose to look at myself this time as a person, simply, Abby Waechter.