Hard work pays off for Berthoud swimmers

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

Everyone sees the moments of glory – the championships won, the records broken, the goals reached. What is rarely for public consumption, however, is the countless hours of hard work put in, the sacrifices made, and the difficulties overcome.

For the 14 Berthoud High School (BHS) students who compete on the Thompson Valley High girls swim team, the work put in – early-morning practices, hours in the pool, playing for a school they do not attend – paid dividends this past weekend as the team competed in the 4A state meet at the EPIC Center in Fort Collins.

Thompson Valley turned in a respectable 12th place showing at state, and a pair of Berthoud students finished in the top 15 in their respective events. Senior Ashlee Rome’s 400 freestyle relay team took 13th place and Sophie Kubik’s 200 medley relay team claimed 11th place. Additionally, Kubik placed 14th in her only solo event, the 500 freestyle.

Kubik, Rome, and their 14 BHS classmates helped Thompson Valley to victories in six events this year and a second-place finish in the Northern Conference Championships.

Some “drama,” in Kubik’s words, with entering into events prevented her from being able to compete in events other than the 500-free at the state meet, when she also wanted to swim in the 100-butterfly. Yet the junior put a positive spin on the snafu saying, “Honestly, that put my focus further into the only event I got to swim individually and really drill down on just my distance freestyle during the week between conference and state.”

Unbeknownst to many is swim teams often practice twice a day, once before school at 5 a.m. and again after school, making for 12-hour days before the athletes can get homework done or enjoy the social component of high school life. Yet both Rome and Kubik explained the arduous practice schedule, one that begins at 5 a.m. on frigid winter mornings, has given both a sense of pride in their sport.

“There’s a certain pride in it, a kind of toughness when you show up to school and your hair is in that messy, wet bun and is dripping down your back and see some of your teachers back away because the look in your eyes is one of total exhaustion,” Kubik explained, and added, the before-dawn practices are actually of benefit in more ways than in the pool. “It sets up a nice rhythm for me … you get up and loosen up and when you get to school you’re more awake than most of the other students around you.”

“Yeah, it sucks to get up at five and go out to your car when it’s cold, but after morning swim practice I’m so awake and so aware of everything that’s going on,” Rome said. “I’m more energized after we have a morning practice.”

Unlike the vast majority of their classmates who compete in various sports, the swimmers have to face the reality they will be wearing the uniform of a school they do not attend. It is something that certainly requires an adjustment, with Kubik calling it, “a little bit weird,” but both maintain the unorthodox arrangement has its positives. One of which is a larger circle of friends.

“I think that going to different schools actually helps bring us closer, because if you go to school with someone all the time you might get kind of tired of them,” Rome said. “But going to different schools and going into a whole new group of people, you meet a whole bunch of new girls you wouldn’t have known any other way. Our state team was really close this year, we got along really well … I love every girl I’ve met on the Thompson Valley swim team.”

Kubik, a junior, explained that even though the 39-member team is split, comprised of students from two different schools, having swam together for several years, the reality in the pool is not much different from what other Berthoud students experience in competing with their classmates.

“This group of girls has pretty much been the same state team since my freshman year,” Kubik said. “I’ve swam on the same medley relay all three years of high school, we’ve sort of had the same thing going, and I think it was just the culmination for this group.”

Like all athletes, the pair spoke at length about the lessons competitive swimming has taught them and said the unique circumstances of early-morning practices at a different school only has enhanced it. “Swimming has taught me to suck it up, when the coaches tell you something you don’t want to do or that you don’t agree with,” said Rome. “I think swimming has taught me a lot of real world skills, life skills.”

“You might not always agree with the choices the coaches make about whose going on what relay but in the end having the trust in your coach and your team, that’s probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned,” Kubik said.

While Rome will be graduating in May and says her competitive swimming days are over, Kubik will return next year, along with a group of highly-talented freshman who will work to achieve even more next season.