Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Back With a Splash

Posted 12/11/2023 by Jesse Smith

The swim girls at practice, using kickboards to help strengthen their core and legs. photo by Ravi Apte

The 2023 girls’ swim season began in November, and the girls are ready to dominate.

Thomas Jefferson offers many sports to the students here in the fall, winter, and spring. The TJ girls’ swim team has begun and already competed in two meets. As one of TJ’s smaller sports teams, they have high expectations this year and will work hard to establish themselves, both individually and in group competition, in the DPS and state leagues.

At TJ, swimmers practice every day and compete in meets every Wednesday. One group event is the 200 medley relay, in which four people swim the length of the pool, there and back (a total of six laps), and the 200 freestyle relay, with three people instead of four. Last season, TJ was heartbroken when they didn’t make state in the 200 medley, as they were only one second away from qualifying. However, they did have two students make state last year: senior Kate Little for Swim and Dive, and junior Sophia Zizzo, for Dive. Individually, swimmers compete in the 100, (four laps of each stroke), the 200 I-M, (eight lengths of the pool), the 500, (20 laps). Besides only sending one swimmer to state, they had multiple swimmers qualify for A-league: freshman Sally Wilson, junior Emily Brown, senior Kate Little, and freshman Olivia Osterhaus-Binkert. A-League is a prestigious competition for the top 16 swimmers in DPS. 

Competing in swimming is difficult and; physically exhausting. In practice, swimmers no longer practice on dryland, which is out of water exercises, and only practice in the water, working on sprints, main sets (sprints, distance, endurance, individual medley, and techniques) and breath work to help them stay underwater for longer. One exercise they do often involves making it halfway across the pool without coming up for air. To do their best in meets, swimmers must be able to stay calm in order to stay underwater for as long as they can. 

While swimming is very physical, it is also a very mentally-draining sport; Osterhaus-Binkert said that she struggles most with the mental part of swimming when it comes to meets. “You’re underwater and it’s like you can’t breathe… so it’s difficult to be able to be like ‘I can do this, I can make it one more stroke, I can do one more kick underwater.’” In swimming, staying underwater is the most vital part of getting a good time. Swimmers have to hold their breath for long periods of time as going up for air can slow them down and affect their overall time. This is due to the friction between the body and water when they surface. Osterhaus-Binkert also said, “It’s hard to look at the time sheets and see that you are only seconds ahead of the swimmer below you, and then you are just in the dumps for the rest of the meet.” 

Swimming is one of the only sports where athletes can see exactly how far behind they are in the competitions, which can directly affect confidence and performance. She also explained it is hard to both not be able to see where she is in the race, or to see how far behind she is and just try to finish the race altogether at that point. Osterhaus-Binkert said it is very easy for swimmers to psych themselves out and sometimes their own brain can be their biggest competitor in meets. 

All swimmers must maintain their composure in meets to do their best. While Osterhaus-Binkert struggles with believing in herself, she still conquers her fears. Excitingly, she has already qualified for A-leagues, after only the second meet. Last year, she barely qualified for the league. One of her personal goals this year is to make it as a solid competitor, which she has already done. 

Now Osterhaus-Binkert hopes to focus on the team and become even closer to her fellow teammates. Already in the new season, she says that the team is “tightly-knitted” but she hopes they hold more team dinners, lunches, and hang out as a team. She believes becoming closer will help everyone succeed this year, and hopefully send more people to not only A-leagues, but to state. 

The team still has a long way to go, luckily, so they have plenty of time to achieve their goals of states and A-league. Even though Little left last year and has moved on to college, Osterhaus-Binkert and the team have no doubt that the team will succeed in their goals, and hope to perform even better than last season.