Athletic All Stars
Some athletes at U-High excel outside the boundaries of school sports. While they might sacrifice valuable time in school or the chance to compete for the school teams, these elite athletes are shaped by their commitment.
March 8, 2018
Rigorous practice yields national success for senior swimmer
Six days a week during the school year. Twelve hours per week during the summer.
This is the amount of time Anna Peterson practices swimming, and because her day is packed with school, homework and family time, swimming occupies most of what’s left over. This immense amount of time is dedicated to intense training to become a better swimmer, and it has set the stage Anna to perform extremely well at state-wide competitions.
Extensive training from a young age, combined with an ability to sacrifice time to be social, has made it possible for Anna Peterson, now a senior, to flourish as a swimmer.
At first, swimming was for comfort. Whenever Anna was in the water, she always seemed to find herself happy. Her parents knew this, and whenever she was upset, they got her in the water as soon as possible. When the Midway Aquatics swimming group opened at Lab it was the perfect opportunity for Anna to begin a close connection with the sport.
Anna currently swims for the Chicago Wolfpack Aquatic Club. Her club swimming coach, Dave Gass, has been instrumental in Anna’s success.
“We get along really well and, yeah, I trust everything that he does and I definitely have succeeded really well with his training,” Anna said.
While training has not been easy, her hard work has paid off. Anna is ranked 20th in Illinois among senior girls, and in 2016 she had the second-fastest 100m butterfly for her age group.
She is content with her recent performances at Speedo Sectional Championships, Speedo Future Championships and the Speedo Winter Junior National Championships. However, the place she gets in events is not what matters in her mind.
“A common belief I’ve found is that people think swimming is all about how you rank and place, but it doesn’t matter at all at how you rank at meets because there are so many variables,” Anna said. “It’s all about the times.”
Anna explained that since the competition she faced can range greatly in swimming ability, placement in events is extremely relative. Therefore, the most valid way to measure swimming performance are the times.
While swimming has brought Anna happiness and success, she has also been forced to sacrifice a great deal in order to reach her current level. Since she spends so much time in the water, she does not have time for other activities, such as socializing with friends. She explained she has gone to very few of her grade’s social events purely due of a lack of time.
However, these sacrifices are done for something truly special.
“It’s a huge part of who I am and it’s definitely really impacted me as a person,” Anna explained. “The challenges you face in and out of the pool … really shapes who I am.”
Fencing sparks patience, strategy
Patience. Teamwork. Friendship. Strategy. Fencing taught Sarah Lurye all of these qualities, becoming a fact of life for her.
“I really like the strategy and the athleticism,” Sarah said. “For fencing, you need a lot of concentration. You need to be really creative, and you need stamina. It’s really important to be patient and have a fast reaction. It’s both mental and physical.”
Sarah, a sophomore, has fenced for six years and currently trains at Windy City Fencing in Lincoln Park five days a week. Sarah wants to compete in NCAA collegiate fencing, and she hopes to compete in the Olympics.
Ranked 6th in the nation for the under-17 category, Sarah was put on the USA traveling team. With the team, she traveled to three cadet international tournaments. She also travels to competitions around the U.S. each month.
Because she travels the world for competitions, Sarah has met some of her best friends because of fencing.
“One of my best friends is from Belgium,” Sarah said. “ I get to see her at tournaments, which is really fun. I have a lot of friends around the U.S., who are also my competitors, but when we’re at the Strip we hang out a lot.”
At Windy City Fencing, Sarah has formed bonds with teammates like Nick Levitt, a freshman, who considers Sarah to be a supportive teammate and friend.
“At big tournaments, the men and women’s events are at different times,” Nick said. “There have been lots of times at national tournaments when she’s been on the sidelines cheering me on. At one national tournament we were at, she lost a bout, but she was very sportsmanlike when she lost and she didn’t get upset like a lot of people do.”
Because she goes to so many competitions, Sarah misses school every couple of weeks, making it difficult to participate in some school activities.
“I do some clubs at school, but it’s especially hard because I have to catch up with homework,” Sarah said. “You are missing so much time outside of school.”
Even if she has to miss school, fencing is worth it to Sarah. She loves representing the United States at international tournaments. At the USA Fencing National Championships in Salt Lake City in July 2017, Sarah won each timed round by mere seconds.
“I think Nationals was a great experience because it really was a great start to the season,” Sarah said. “Winning each bout by one point was pretty incredible. It was amazing getting on the podium and getting second place in the U.S.”
Volleyball sisters gain team mentality
Sydney Rogers dives after the ball, falling to the floor, and watches from the ground as it rises over the net and out of bounds. She slaps the floor and immediately her teammates are there to help her up. They laugh it off, high five, and get back in position, ready to receive the next serve.
Sydney, a sophomore, and her sister Erin, a junior, began playing volleyball three years ago and have continued through high school. It has become a large commitment for both of them and has shaped their social and athletic circles.
The sisters play for different divisions within their competitive volleyball club, Chicago Elite. Volleyball has taught them valuable lessons about time management and what it means to be a member of a team.
Erin especially has taken advantage of the management skills volleyball has given her.
“In a way I think it’s actually helped me academically,” Erin said. “I used to waste so much time before I got home everyday after school. Club forces me to better manage my time and plan things ahead of time.”
The sisters also play for the U-High volleyball team, but club play is where they feel they get the chance to really shine. Although club volleyball takes a lot of time out of their schedules, which can be seen as a sacrifice, both of the sisters made it clear that volleyball has made them become better students and team members Because both sisters spend around 15 hours per week and sometimes up to eight hours per Saturday on the court their club teams have become like family.
“Before volleyball I did gymnastics,” Sydney said. “Volleyball forced me to work with a team and to lead. Even through at first that was hard, I really appreciate what it gave me.”
Erin said her team has been forced to come together.
“I’ve been on the court before when a girl on my team went up to attack and ended up passing out and having a seizure,” Erin said. “I had to take control and call 911. It was terrifying, but she ended up being fine.”
Although Erin and Sydney are both dedicated to volleyball, they are thankful for what it has given them in high school even though they know the sport doesn’t have a large role within their futures.
“I mean, the ultimate goal is a scholarship,” Sydney said. “But if that doesn’t work, I just want to try out for whatever school I end up going to.”
Most importantly volleyball has shaped the sisters’ attitude toward life.
“You just need to keep a positive attitude because a negative one brings down all the people around you,” Erin said.