SARASOTA — Paiton Krebs jumped into the pool five months ago and felt something she had never experienced before.
Her lungs began to tighten and she struggled to breathe. After struggling through the first long-course practice of the season, the Cardinal Mooney High senior wasn’t sure if she could keep going.
Having spent the past two months with mono, Krebs’ visions of closing out her high school swimming career by swimming in the Class 1A Swimming and Diving Championships began to fade away.
As she climbed out of the pool, Andrew Eckhart, her coach at the Sarasota Sharks, turned to her, and, for the first time, Krebs realized the battle she would be facing.
“He told me, ‘It’s going to be tough,’” Krebs recalls.
At that point, Krebs, who narrowly missed the state meet by .12 seconds her sophomore year and struggled throughout her junior season, thought about walking away from the sport.
But her coach wouldn’t let her. Instead, he pushed her to keep going and, before long, Krebs was back in shape.
“He’s been the one behind me the whole time,” Krebs says.
Krebs competed in her first state meet Nov. 8. She finished 20th in the 500-yard freestyle in a time of 5:15.89. She dropped five seconds off her time.
“When I hit the board, I was like ‘Wow,’” Krebs says. “It was almost a surreal feeling. Just to be able to say that I overcame all of the battles and I’m here — this was definitely a Cinderella year for me.”
Following her berth in the state championships, Krebs announced she would be continuing her swimming career at the next level. On Nov. 19, she signed a national letter of intent to swim for Division I Valparaiso University in Indiana.
“I just knew this was my school, and I’ve been driving to get there ever since,” Krebs said. “This is my dream. Honestly, this is a perfect senior year for me.”
With her high school career officially behind her, Krebs will continue training six days a week with the Sharks in hopes of dropping another five seconds off her time to make the cut for the Short Course Y Nationals this spring.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].