Last month, nine of our YMCA swimmers qualified to attend the NYS High School Swim Championship in Ithaca, NY. Four of these girls not only share a high school team, but also swim together at the Duanesburg YMCA.
Amaya Digiovanni, Allie Dixon, Olivia Nelson, and Marianna Santabarbara all went to States this year to represent the Mohonasen – Schalmont School District. In each event, the girls competed against up to fifty other girls from across the state. Having the ability to qualify for the state meet is a huge achievement, but these girls went above and beyond that, and placed well in a number of events.
For all the grace they show in the water, you’d never know the struggles that went on behind the scenes.
“For big meets and competitions, we have to put on really tight suits,” Allie says, as all the girls laugh in unison. “If your friend is up for their race, you have to ask random people in the locker room to help you pull up your straps and that can be awkward.”
The suits Allie is referencing are kneeskins, which is a type of competitive swimwear, similar in design to the full bodyskin, but cuts off at the knee.
“The funniest one I think, was a few years ago at sectionals. Our friend was trying to get her kneeskin on in the locker room. It was right before her race, and she couldn’t get it on. There must have been like eight girls in there trying to help her. She couldn’t get it. It ripped. She had to race in her practice suit.”
The girls laugh hysterically at the memory. Luckily, none of the girls had a kneeskin blunder at States.
“This was my best State meet so far,” said Allie. This is her fourth time at States and she received her “best times.” She placed 8th in the 200 freestyle and 17th in the 500, got 16th in the 200 medley relay, while also placing 6th with Amaya in the 400 relay.
“I like events after I swim them,” added Amaya. “There’s not as much pressure.” In addition to placing in the 400 relay with Allie, Amaya placed 28th in the 200 freestyle relay with Marianna. “This was the most fun year because I was closer friends with the people I went with.”
“It was very exciting,” Marianna said. This was her first year going to the State meet and only her second year on the Varsity team. As only an eighth grader, Marianna stepped up and did an amazing job in her first appearance at States. She starred in the 200 freestyle relay with Amaya and Olivia.
The girls don’t solely train during their high school season. They are a part of the Duanesburg Eels throughout the rest of the year.
When asked about training, Allie said, “It’s six days a week for both. For the Eels, we do a half hour of dry-land and two hours in the water. In varsity, we just do two hours in the water.”
You could say that swimming is their whole life, but they don’t love everything about it.
“For varsity, from the first day of school through sectionals, we aren’t allowed to shave our legs,” Allie says, wincing. “We all get to shave right before sectionals.”
The girls laugh and cringe at the same time. The swim season, which lasts about three months, has proven to be a challenge.
“It’s awful, especially in gym class,” Amaya adds. “This is the first season I’ve actually done it. All the other seasons, I’ve caved.”
“Our varsity coach threatens that if we shave and she founds out, she’ll make us run around the school in cap and goggles,” Allie laughs.
“She’s bluffing,” included Marianna.
Allie shrugs. “It’s never happened or she hasn’t caught anybody.”
In addition to the bond over un-shaved legs, tight body suits, and countless hours in the pool, the girls continue to share inside jokes.
“We like to wink,” Marianna says with a huge smile on her face.
The girls laugh and nod.
“At States, they have a Jumbotron, where you walk and wave and stuff. So for the free relay, we ended up snapping and winking at everyone,” Amaya explained.
They all imitate the motion.
“Well, we’re not good at it,” Amaya says before she pauses. “Well, she is.” Both girls point to Marianna who demonstrates her winking power.
Even though States has come to a close, the girls are still swimming six days a week. Be sure to root for them in all of their upcoming meets!