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Just keep swimming

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Senior Ellie Ridgeway swims freestyle at an AAC swim meet in 2015.

Senior Ellie Ridgeway swims freestyle at an AAC swim meet in 2015.

Victor O'Neil

Victor O'Neil

Senior Ellie Ridgeway swims freestyle at an AAC swim meet in 2015.

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On Friday, December 2, senior Ellie Ridgeway woke up in the middle of the night — 4:25 AM to be exact. But instead of going back to sleep, she put on a swimsuit and got ready for practice. As a member of AAC, a USA Swimming team, Ridgeway trains almost every day to compete at a national level. The elite nature of the team requires its athletes to be incredibly committed, even getting up before sunrise three days a week. On this particular day, Ridgeway’s morning practice was in preparation for an important meet. “I train year-round with AAC and the practices get more stressful and focused when we get closer to a competition,” Ridgeway said. “Right now, we’re cutting down the time in the water and fine tuning everything for the big meet.”

Ridgeway must wake up early and train hard, which can be a deadly combination. The group that Ridgeway practices with consists of members of AAC’s highest level, so the training environment is competitive and rigorous. “Morning practices are killer,” Ridgeway said. “Sometimes it’s hard for my body to deal with physical and mental fatigue from both the early wake-up call and the workout.”

Unlike most students, Ridgeway is in the full International Baccalaureate (IB) programme and takes seven IB classes. This demanding course load is especially daunting for a student athlete with Ridgeway’s strict schedule. Ridgeway’s morning practices force her to go to sleep around 9:30 PM, a bedtime almost unheard of for a high school senior. “It’s a lot to juggle, having two practices a day and four or five hours of homework per night,” Ridgeway said, “but the little time I have for assignments helps me stay on task because I can’t afford to waste time.”

This morning, Ridgeway started her school day in IB Biology HL, followed by three other IB classes that round out her L day. These challenging courses only add to Ridgeway’s intense schedule. “I don’t start to really feel the exhaustion from getting up for morning practices until lunchtime or Generals Period,” Ridgeway said. “Once that feeling sets in, it’s really difficult to get through my classes and stay focused.”

On top of her commitments for AAC, Ridgeway swims on the varsity team for W-L. Despite competing in similar events for both teams, Ridgeway sees the two as very different experiences. “W-L’s team is great because it challenges me to be better differently than AAC,” Ridgeway said. “I get to race against different people and attend other competitions that help me grow as a swimmer.”

From morning practices, afternoon workouts and swim meets to IB classes and homework, Ridgeway’s schedule is not easy to maintain. The life of a multi-team competitive swimmer and dedicated IB student is filled with intense training, long study sessions and a lot of stress, but Ridgeway has found a way to pursue her passion for high level swimming despite her school commitments. “Swimming has helped me succeed in school,” Ridgeway said. “It’s an outlet for me to get my mind off of my classes and just do what I love.”

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Just keep swimming