Even without the kaleidoscope of thrills — fierce competition, deafening cheers, the lure of a state title — fueling a rush of adrenaline, Spartan swimmers made their mark.
Stanwood wrapped up its season Friday with 55 best times — the most at a single event during this COVID-shortened season.
For senior Anna Veazey — who swam four best times and came tantalizingly close to breaking a school record in the 100-yard butterfly — the limits on the season were almost too much.
“Part of me just wanted to keep the good memories from the past years and not swim this season,” said Veazey, who swam a school-record 50-yard freestyle time in the 200-yard freestyle relay at last season’s state swim championships. “But of course I'm going to do it, because I love swimming.”
That may be an understatement.
When COVID closed pools last spring, Veazey didn’t stop swimming. She and four other members of her Mighty Marlins swim club bought wetsuits. Three days a week, from May into the fall, they swam the perimeter of Lake Ki.
“It’s very different than in the pool. It was cold. You cannot see the bottom,” said Veazey, who has been swimming since age 8. “All you could see once in a while were some sticks pointing out from the darkness. It was a little scary. But it’s a really funny experience to look back on.”
Veazey ended last season eyeing several goals for her senior campaign. In addition to shooting for podium spots at the state championships, she began the season within 2 seconds of breaking four Stanwood records: the 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard backstroke, 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard freestyle.
Given a full season of practices and head-to-head competitions instead of a condensed five-week season, maybe she could have achieved those goals.
“It was a really hard pill to swallow knowing we would not be competing against other teams in the same pool,” head coach Rita Peterson said. “It is extremely hard to swim your very best against no one.”
Due to the pandemic, state rules for pools limited the number of people in and around the pool deck. As a result, the Wesco swim teams competed in time trials, where they compared times each week.
“Anna Veazey had high hopes of going to state and setting records,” Peterson said. “A lot of things go into a record-breaking swim — competition in the next lane, a big crowd pushing you — and she had none of that.”
Still, Veazey came within 0.06 of a second of breaking Karli Rimat’s record in the 100-yard butterfly.
“Her time itself is really, really incredible,” Peterson said. “To come that close with none of the things behind her is telling.”
It’s still bittersweet, though.
“I’m still trying to accept the 0.06,” Veazey said. “But, I’m very content overall with the high school season. … I mean, last fall we were thinking there wouldn’t be a season.”
And the Spartans took advantage of every day, Peterson said. Their work culminated Friday in a bushel of best times, including several swimmers who posted best times in each of their four events.
“It was the perfect opportunity to spend five weeks of quality time on stroke work and technique,” Peterson said. “It really sets us up well for the fall.”
Meanwhile, Veazey will jump back into the pool, continuing her yearlong training regimen. Though she swims all four strokes, she prefers the butterfly.
“I just love when I can get into a rhythm, the butterfly is really about the rhythm of a dolphin,” she said. “I feel like I’m on the top of the world. It's an amazing feeling.”
In the fall, Veazey plans to attend Arizona Christian University and swim for coach Brad Hering, a former Stanwood assistant coach.
“I’m excited to start competing at the college level,” Veazey said. “Now, I've got to see if I can break some Arizona Christian University records.”