The Comets' Tale

Olivia Vanderlaan
Contact me at: [email protected]

“Being in the pool hasn’t always been a part of my life. When I was younger, I used to cry when I had to go to swim lessons. Learning how to swim was terrifying to me!” Olivia Vanderlaan said.

It didn’t take long until that was a past memory though. Since learning to swim, Vanderlaan was always the first one in the water and the last one out. Constantly splashing, darting, and doing tricks that she could only perform while in the pool. Water became her safe place and the pools became a friend. In fourth grade, her parents enrolled her in a local swim club to try and focus all her energy. 

For the past 8 years, weeknights and weekends have been dedicated to practices and meets. When she got to high school, she added morning practices. Her summers became a repetitive cycle of sleep, swim, eat, repeat. The school year was much of the same with the added bonus of having school work to do. Somehow, Vanderlaan still managed to be a teenager. In the midst of endless hours of practice, she became a leader in her church youth group, editor and chief of her school’s newspaper, a PAL, she joined NHS, got a job and much more. 

 “It was a lot for her. Especially the first summer that she did the two-a-day practices.” Heather Vanderlaan, Vanderlaan’s Mom, said. Summers were particularly difficult, Vanderlaan had two practices a day, each 2 grueling hours long. So when her friends went to the beach, she went to practice. When her friends had sleepovers, she went to practice. When her friends had bonfires, she went to bed to go to early morning practice. 

“It took awhile for her to get there. She didn’t always like choosing between swimming and other stuff. A lot of times it was us [her parents] picking for her.” Jeff Vanderlaan, Vanderlaan’s Dad, said. One winter her friend was having a sleepover birthday party, Vanderlaan begged to go to it. She came up with a list of reasons why she should be able to. She tried to be reasonable. Going would mean skipping practice, both Friday and Saturday. That wasn’t an option. Her parents reminded her of her goals and the reasons why she swam. Vanderlaan knew then that she would be going to practice instead of the party.

“Olivia was always there at the big stuff. Our youth group has a lot of annual events and stuff that we do and while she wasn’t at all of them, she was at the big events.” Zoe Jansen, Vanderlaan’s best friend since childhood, said. While she went to practice a lot, her parents did let her make her own decision. This meant Vanderlaan would rush from practice to go to football games on Friday nights, she showed up late to her youth group because of her swim meet that day, or she would go to meetings for school, then show up late to practice.

Vanderlaan learned to figure out what was important. That is a hard lesson to learn at any age. But because she did, Vanderlaan was able to do the sport she loved, while still maintaining a life apart from it.

Olivia Vanderlaan, Editor in Chief

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Olivia Vanderlaan