“Take your mark,” a voice calls as Silverado student Gabriella Graham prepares to dive into the expanse of water before her. A whistle blows, and she happily splashes her way in.
Graham, 17, is described as “a diligent worker and leader, who’s always focused on the details,” by her club swim coach, Mike Polk. She’s been swimming since she was 7.
“My brother was a swimmer, so I wanted to try it and ensure that I wouldn’t drown,” Graham jokingly said. “And, I liked it.”
Since then, Graham has been swimming for the Boulder City Henderson Heat Wave swim team. She took a brief break during seventh and eighth grade because of complications with her shoulder, but continued participating in the sport just before high school.
Upon entering her freshman year, she joined Silverado High School’s varsity swim team. She believes her best event to be the 200 butterfly — eight laps of the butterfly — swim with a personal best time of 2 minutes, 8.4 seconds.
Graham often competes with her club swim team on a national level, attending meets such as the Junior Olympics and the Chesapeake Pro Am Elite meet.
To prepare for events and bring down her times, she must train eight times a week, each period lasting roughly two hours.
“It’s so cool when you put so much time and work into a sport and finally drop time for an event,” Graham said, after discussing the amount of training required for a club swimmer. “The feeling is indescribable.”
Graham has received times low enough that have made her eligible to compete in every event at the high school regional swim meet since her freshman year, and she’s qualified for the Nevada state meet during her sophomore and junior years thus far. However, the high school athlete doesn’t describe attending these events as the most memorable part of being a swimmer.
During her sophomore year, Graham swam alongside Olympic swimmer, Kathleen Hershey, at the All American Short Course competition in 2012.
“It was awesome,” she said. “It just made everything feel so real.”
There are also aspects of being a swimmer that most people don’t think about, Graham noted.
“I love being on a swim team,” she said. “I’ve met some of my best friends through swimming. They see me at all of my worst times, and we’re still really close.”
One such teammate, 18-year-old senior, Mitchell Rocky, said, “Being in the same room with Gabby puts a smile on your face.”
He said she’s almost oversupportive of her team and has grown from a person who just comes to practice every day, to a person who leads and encourages her team.
“It is important that people know that I’m definitely not the best swimmer out there,” Graham said. “But, I am working to become a better one every day.”
She said she plans to continue swimming at a college level, and is reviewing her options.
“Nothing is easy,” she said. “But, I’m determined to chase after what I want.”
“I won’t give up.”