Senior Gabi Vieira swims to success

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Ray Shaw

Senior Gabi Vieira swims backstroke at the Parkway Quad Swim meet on Jan. 8 at Parkway North.

It is 5:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. Most people are asleep but not senior Gabi Vieira. As the sun is just starting to peek through the dark night sky, Vieira pulls on her cap and goggles before jumping into a chilly pool for swim practice with her club team, Clayton Shaw Park. In addition to club swimming, Vieira also swims for West’s swim team. Between both teams, Vieira participates in 11 practices a week.

“I swim all of my morning practices before school with my club team on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, afternoon practices and Saturday morning practices with school and Sunday morning practices with club,” Vieira said.

Apart from being a swimmer, Vieira is also a full-time student. A balancing act like this requires carefully planning and lots of energy.

“I usually try to do my homework in my free time during classes. Then if I don’t get it done I do it when I get home – I have early dismissal – or sometimes after practice. I always go to bed at 9 p.m. because I’m too exhausted to stay up any later. I always have dinner with my parents and we spend our weekends together,” Viera said.

Despite being a senior, this is Vieira’s first season swimming for the high school swim team. Switching club teams, injuries and college recruitment kept Vieira from swimming for West.

“My parents and I decided I shouldn’t swim for the high school team my freshman year because I had just switched club teams and getting used to new coaching was difficult,” Vieira said. “Sophomore year I got hurt. Junior year I was being recruited for college swimming, and colleges look more at USA meets than high school meets, so it was important for me to swim in more of those meets through my club team. And then senior year, I finally got to do it.”

Before Vieira got injured, her sophomore year she was close to achieving an Olympic trial cut in the 100 butterfly, but her injury put her progress at a stand still. Vieira is now back on track and is currently about half a second off the cut. But as of now, Vieira is focusing on her high school season. Because Vieira has experienced both club and high school swimming, she has noticed that high school swimming is much more team oriented.

“High school swimming is so much more fun! Club swimming is more individualized, you practice as a team but you are all working towards different goals, but high school swimming is more like the team has to get here rather than every person working towards their own goal. It is like you are swimming for your team rather than for yourself,” Vieira said.

Vieira broke the school record in the 100-yard backstroke and qualified for the state swim meet in the 100-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly. She hopes to break the state record and win at least one of her events. Aside from breaking records and winning events, Vieira’s team agree that she is also a great teammate.

“Obviously she is a huge asset to the team skill-wise because she is really fast, but she is also just a great person to be around because she will always push you to do better and congratulate you,” freshman Maria Newton said

The girls swim coach, Allison Wallace, is happy to have Vieira on the team as well.

“Gabi is a hard worker and a natural leader in the pool,” Wallace said. “She has great practice habits and gives 100 percent to every set she does.  Plus she is sweet and kind and the type of person you want to surround yourself with.”

Next year Vieira is going to swim for Tulane University, in New Orleans, where she will focus on butterfly and backstroke sprinting. She was one of eight student-athletes who signed to play NCAA sports on National Signing Day on Feb. 3.