LAKEWOOD RANCH — From the moment she dived into the pool, Lakewood Ranch sophomore Shannon McCarthy knew what she had to do.
Trailing her competition by less than a stroke, the 15-year-old propelled herself through the water. McCarthy put together one of her best laps in the butterfly to just edge past her opponent at the wall.
But this wasn’t any ordinary race. Her competitor was University of Florida swimmer Maida Turnadzic. McCarthy, who also swims for the Lakewood Ranch YMCA WaveRunners, and seven other swimmers formed a relay team to race Turnadzic in the 200 butterfly during the Gator Swim Camp June 21-25 in Gainesville.
Each swimmer was responsible for a single lap or 25 meters, and for McCarthy, it was an experience she won’t forget.
“I beat her on that one lap, so that was good,” McCarthy said. “It was a little intimidating, but it was fun. She was just a little ahead of me when I dived in, but I was able to just beat her.”
During the Gator Swim Camp, McCarthy got to meet with Florida’s head coaches and received feedback and tips for improving her technique. The experience should prove beneficial for McCarthy, who will return to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Natatorium July 9 to compete in the YMCA Sectional Meet.
McCarthy will compete in the 50 freestyle, the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke and also will swim two bonus events for each event for a total of nine races.
“I’m hoping to drop time in the 50 freestyle,” McCarthy said. “That’s the most important (race) to me, so I’m hoping to do the best in it.”
McCarthy qualified for the YMCA Sectional Meet after posting YMCA National Time in the 100 freestyle (1:03.34) and Senior Championship Times in the 200 IM (2:49.74), the 50 freestyle (29.69), the 100 butterfly (1:15.37) and the 100 freestyle at the Memorial Meet May 14-16.
In addition, McCarthy became the first WaveRunners swimmer to capture YMCA National Time and Senior Championship Time since the team became a member of USA Swimming.
McCarthy followed up her record-setting performance again last month when she posted another YMCA National Time — this time in the 50 freestyle (28.79) — and Senior Championship Times in the 200 freestyle (2:22.15), 100 breaststroke (1:26.64), 200 backstroke (2:45.83) and 100 backstroke (1:15.97) at the Beat the Heat Meet June 11-13 in Clearwater.
“I was really happy,” McCarthy said of posting YMCA National Time. “It’s one of the big goals I’ve had for a while. I’ve been working hard, and all of my practice has paid off.”
McCarthy learned to swim when she was 8 years old. In the three years that followed, McCarthy swam more for fun, and she’ll be the first one to admit she wasn’t very good.
She eventually took a break from the sport, and it wasn’t until last year, at the urging of her father, Frank, that McCarthy returned to the pool.
“I really enjoyed swimming when I was younger,” McCarthy said. “My dad encouraged me to do it, and I said, ‘Alright, I’ll try it.’ And I ended up loving it.”
McCarthy practices five days a week — twice on Tuesdays and Thursdays — for two hours a day. Last season, McCarthy swam the 50 and 100 freestyles, but this year she decided to add the 200 IM, the 100 breaststroke and the 100 backstroke to her resume.
“I just got tired of just doing freestyle,” McCarthy said. “I wanted to get a more well-rounded (lineup) of events.”
McCarthy, who has aspirations of swimming in college, will spend the summer competing for the WaveRunners before focusing on the high school season, which begins in September.
“It’s important to keep it fun so I don’t get sick of swimming,” McCarthy said. “I want to go to practice. I’m excited for them, and that helps me keep swimming.”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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