When it comes to planning out our event calendar every year, you bet USLA Nationals is up there. With four days of competition, it's a great event to get behind and celebrate the efforts of some of the best.
We were lucky enough to catch up with #ENGINEAthlete Sophia Swanson for her take on the event.
ENGINE: How did you get involved in the sport?
Swanson: I got involved with the sport of lifesaving by watching my older sister. Being the youngest in the Junior lifeguard program, I watched my sister slowly get used to swimming in the ocean and acclimate with the guards around her. I couldn't wait until I could be a part of this program, knowing how much I already loved it before joining. I went to my first national tournament when I was 10, and competed in every event. By that time, I was on the East Hampton Hurricanes, the local club swim team, so I enjoyed everything that dealt with swimming and competing. In 2019 I was selected as a member of the USLA youth national team, and to compete in Durban, South Africa at the Lifeguard World Championships. I've now spent my time helping the younger junior lifeguards train in swimming, paddling, and iron guards. I've become an instructor for this program that brought me to where I am today, as well as helping Haley Ryan run the Nipper Program.
E: What's your favourite thing about SLS/ being an athlete?
S: All of the people I meet along the way. Being able to meet new friends, and make connections while doing the sport you love, is something that is so memorable and makes the sport so much more enjoyable.
E: Describe your experience at USLA Nationals in 3 words:
S: Exciting, competitive and memorable.
E: Going into the comp, what were you hoping to achieve?
S: I was hoping to achieve a positive mindset throughout the entirety of this weekend. Staying positive and staying on task of competing at my highest level would also get me in the correct state of mind for swimming at college in two weeks.
E: Did the meet go to plan? What went well... and what not so much?
S: The plan went well, and I... achieve(d) what I wanted to. I also stayed supportive to my teammates and to others around me. I performed at the best I could have, and did what needed to be done in all swimming events. What didn't go so well was the paddle rescue with my partner. We normally do very well in this event, and it's our favourite to compete in, but we got caught in a rip coming in and (it) took us twice as long.
Officials sporting their bespoke uniforms designed at ENGINE Head Office.
E: What's your biggest lesson from the weekend?
S: To use your surroundings to your advantage. Before entering the water, checking to see how shallow the water is, how deep the sand is, how far out you have to run before dolphin diving, and where the rips are, are all keys to doing well and getting ready for the race that's about to be done.
E: How do you manage your time between training and other commitments? What was your training schedule like leading to nationals?
S: I mange my time with training, and other commitments by setting aside specific times to train. I swim every morning before going to work, and then at work while I'm lifeguarding, I will go on a fast run, or do some kind of weight training with the equipment given. I also set clear goals in what I need to do in order to achieve my goals as well as prioritising what is more important.
E: What's next for you?
S: I will go back to Marist where I swim Division 1 in late August where I start swimming straight away. I broke one record last season, and I am hoping to break another this upcoming season for my senior year. I just got named captain of my team, and am hoping to be a successful leader.
E: A quote you live by?
S: 'Mind over matter' which is what my dad would always say to me before competing. It emphasizes the power of determination and mental strength over physical obstacles or challenges.
To keep up with Sophia across the upcoming season be sure to follow her @ssophiaswanson.