When Lilly Myers is stuck on a plane, bored of “Iron Man 2,” “Iron Man 3” and “Spiderman: Homecoming,” the three movies she has on her phone, she turns to her photo gallery.
She flicks through the pictures one by one, pictures of regattas old and new. She thinks of the moments those pictures hold in time, and sometimes, she can’t believe how far she’s come.
Myers, a Riverview High rising senior, is a sailor, a racer of Laser Radial boats, and a good one. She finished fourth at the 2018 U.S. Sailing Youth Championships in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. on June 27, then ninth at the 2018 U.S. Sailing Singlehanded Nationals in La Porte, Texas, on July 3, and 10th in the 2018 Laser North American Championships in Long Beach, Calif., on July 15. As of July 17, Myers had been on summer break 48 days, and been gone for 40 of them, either training or competing. Next month, she’ll head to Kiel, Germany, for the 2018 International Laser Class Association Laser Radial Youth World Championships.
The travel is nothing new to her. The reason she gets bored on planes is she flies to Houston three weekends a month to train with the Gulf Coast Youth Sailing Association (GCYSA), leaving Friday afternoons and coming back Sunday night. She started this routine a year and a half ago, when she decided to take sailing seriously. Before that, she was part of Sarasota Youth Sailing, a feat remarkable in itself when considering how much Myers hated sailing the first time she tried it, at The Field Club when she was in 6th grade.
“It was scary,” Myers said. “You’re in control of this boat. The wind is frightening. Everything is new and strange.
“I don’t know why I went back, but I did.”
She came around to it once she started racing, not just sailing. Her competitive juices were too strong to let her be apathetic.
Myers improved as she spent more time with the sport. Alana O’Reilly, the executive director of SYS and someone Myers said she considers a mentor, said Myers “was a tireless worker.”
“You could tell she was determined,” O’Reilly said. “She was good on the water, good with physical fitness, good in school. After getting to know her and watching her work and improve, it (national success) became more realistic.”
After meeting some GCYSA coaches at a regatta and chatting about her career, Myers made the switch. It wasn’t an easy choice for her or her family, but both parties decided it was the right one if Myers was to live up to her potential.
“I want to be the best in the country,” Myers said. “SYS was a great program for me to start my career. I’m so thankful for my coaches there. But I needed something more, and joining GCYSA was the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Sometimes Myers misses spendings weekends with Sarasota friends, but her GCYSA teammates are her best friends now, she said. Besides, she said, she still has too much to learn. You’re never done learning in sailing, and her recent outings, while not disappointing, could have been better if not for “plenty of little mistakes,” she said.
Her overall year was good enough for the Florida Women’s Sailing Association to select her as the 2018 Young Woman Sailor of the Year. It’s an award she applied for last year and didn’t get, she said, so getting it this year is extra sweet. In the future, Myers has another prize on her mind, and that’s a gold medal in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. She was selected for the US Sailing Olympic Development Program two years ago, so the thought is realistic.
If she does fly out to LA for the Games, she’ll want to have photos of her current self for reminiscing. Who knows how far Myers’ skills will come over the next decade?
Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.