Locally Grown: Tevyn Waddell

Interviews with South Dakotans finding success outside their college major by Kyle Hallberg. 

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(Submitted Image)

It’s Olympic Games season and all Tevyn Waddell can think about is the trials. Instead of planning the last big party or what shoes to wear at graduation, recent graduate of Mitchell High School, Tevyn Waddell spent the last couple months of high school training for the Olympic Swimming Trials held in Omaha, NE. While balancing school, the social life of a high school senior and finding time to sleep, Waddell put all of her remaining energy into the water, anxiously awaiting her turn in the ten-lane pool.

I was lucky enough to catch Waddell in between the trials and her departure for college, allowing us to talk about a life torn between swimming and school, and the importance of both.

When did you start swimming?

Tevyn Waddell: I started swimming lessons when I was really young through my daycare, but I started on the swim team when I was 5 or 6.

That’s a crazy long time to swim. By now, you have to have a favorite stroke…

TW: Definitely the backstroke.

There is quite the community in the swimming world. Is there any one particular person who has influenced you in swimming?

TW: When I was younger, I really looked up to the other kids on my team, especially Andee Budahl and Trina Young. Otherwise, more recently, the kids who have influenced my swimming and made me want to be a better swimmer would have be the younger kids on the team, as well as my coach. I want the younger kids on my team to have someone to look up to, like I did.

That’s very admirable of you. After all of this time, do you have a favorite place to swim?

TW: The pool in Omaha for the Olympic Trials was pretty cool to swim in. But, I honestly love swimming at the pool at the University of Minnesota.

The University of Minnesota is a great school. Does that have anything to do with your plan after high school?

TW: Yes! I’m going there to study biology and I’m also going to be swimming on their swim team. Before I could think about college though, I had to put all of my focus on the Trials.

Tell me about them. What feelings, emotional and physical, did you experience?

TW: The experience is one that every swimmer dreams of. It’s such a well-known meet and the biggest and fastest swimmers in the country are there. Getting to go and compete in not only one event, but three, was just a blessing. People always asked me before going if I was feeling nervous or not, but I honestly wasn’t nervous at all. I was so excited that I didn’t have time to be nervous!

Going into the meet, my goal was to just take everything in and not worry too much about what happened in the pool. I didn’t swim any best times; but, I also didn’t expect to. The Trials are at such a bad time in the season that it’s almost rare to go a best time. I was just so happy to be there and they had so much cool stuff for the athletes. We all got kickboards and water bottles with our names on them, and there were also free massages and smoothies for all the athletes. We had our own little lounge with a photo booth, TV, xBox, coloring books, bean bag chairs, and my personal favorite – therapy dogs. They had dogs every day in the lounge for the athletes to go pet and play with to help with the stress of the meet.

As far as the meet as a whole, my favorite part was after the swimming happened. Walking out of the athlete area to the gate, we were met with swimming fans everywhere. There would be little kids begging for pictures and autographs, and they didn’t care who you were or whether you had made the Olympic team or not. You had made it to the fastest swim meet in the country and that was enough for them.

I can honestly say that every time I walked out of the athlete area, I talked with the fans for 10-15 minutes, signing papers and taking pictures. My emotions were at an all-time high during this meet. All the support from back home was so overwhelming, which made the experience that much better. Knowing I had all of South Dakota behind me was a feeling like nothing I had ever experienced before and I couldn’t be more thankful for it all.

That sounds absolutely incredible. After such an experience, I can assume that swimming is now more important than ever. How are you planning on balancing swimming and classes at the U of M?

TW: Lots of late night study sessions after practice, paired with a lot of coffee. Luckily at Minnesota, we have an amazing athletic academics team that is there to help us deal with the hecticness of balancing swimming and school. It’s a huge time commitment, but nothing that I can’t handle.

Well, obviously you’ve done a pretty good job at handling it all so far. Talk to me about how swimming affected your high school experience.

TW: Swimming has taught me so many life lessons that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. It has taught me how to maintain time management for sure. The best part of swimming, though, was all of the friends I have made. My best friends are all swimmers. Some don’t even live in Mitchell and some don’t even live in South Dakota.

All the traveling for swimming was pretty cool, too, and it definitely made all my non-swimmer friends very jealous. Little did they realize all of the hard work I had put in so that I was able to travel to these national meets. Swimming was a time commitment, especially in high school. So yeah, I may have missed multiple sporting events or road trips with my friends on the weekend, but now that sport is paying for my college, so I really can’t complain too much. That one basketball game or that one bonfire that I missed isn’t going to matter in two years. Swimming, on the other hand, will.

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