Senior Maria Newton advances to national level swim meet

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Amiee Kappler

Senior Maria Newton swims during her practice competition at Marquette Relays during the start of her season. The swim meet is a long standing tradition for St. Louis area high school teams to participate in low-stake competitions. “It was always one of my favorite swim meets because I love to be reminded that the sport is about racing, and that is what we need to be focused on,” Newton said. “You just need to be faster than the person next to you.”

The water ripples violently. Arm after arm, she braces for the finish. The buzzer rings as the people filling the stands watch each stroke intently. Senior Maria Newton’s high school swimming career ended with the Missouri state meet, but she is by no means done swimming.

Between school-sponsored swimming and her college career, Newton attended the TYR International Elite Showcase, a national swim meet from March 2630 with the Parkway Swim Club.

“It feels really cool because my club is sponsored by TYR, so my swimsuit and goggles have their brand on it, which made me feel like I was representing something bigger than myself,” Newton said. “It was amazing to get a Parkway Club name down there because there weren’t many teams from the Midwest, and we not only represented the club, but we also represented all of the Midwest.”

Newton has been a competitive swimmer for six years and has looked forward to this moment since she started swimming for the Parkway Swim Club.

“Swimming has always been a part of me, and it always will be. I am excited for what I have accomplished so far, and what I will do in the future,” Newton said. “I am a naturally competitive person so having an outlet for that and having an activity in which I can compete is kind of necessary for me. I’m motivated everyday because I want to do my best in competition.”

Although her team usually competes in the Speedo Pro Series, this year Newton competed in the TYR Pro Series, which is less competitive, giving Newton a better chance to swim in more events.

Swimming has always been a part of me, and it always will be. I am excited for what I have accomplished so far, and what I will do in the future,”

— Maria Newton

“It was very fun because I got to swim in finals every day. Being able to swim in more events makes me feel proud,” Newton said. “There are plenty of swimmers who are faster than I am; where I am, it is important to be versatile. I’m proud of the fact that I am not tied down to just one event, and I can compete in a more well-rounded way.”

Throughout the year, Newton has learned that confidence and inspiration is the key to winning races like the coed medley.

“I always pick someone to look up to because it helps me to have a specific [swimmer] I work on catching,” Newton said. “I always ask myself, ‘how do I get better,’ and ‘how do I get up to their skill level.’ That helps me mentally.”

She went into the meet with low expectations after feeling disappointed with her performances earlier in the season.

“Being able to do well in Florida was a huge improvement. I was not expecting to do all that well,” Newton said. “Often swimmers go through what is called a ‘sophomore slump’ where around sophomore year, they stop getting faster. I’m just now getting over mine, and it is really exciting. I think the key is having the right mindset. I had to focus less on dropping time, which has not been happening, and more on just doing my best. I was so happy to have a good meet.”

Besides taking practice seriously and trying her best, she discovered that she performs better when she is relaxed, which is not ideal for most swimmers. Swimmers often get more energy when they are stressed or under pressure.

“I learned that I do better when I am relaxed, which is actually really surprising,” Newton said. “I thought I always performed well under pressure because I thought those situations were better for me. I was stressed at the state meet, and I didn’t do as well as I expected, but being at the nationals—I was already used to this, and I ended up doing better.”

Newton and her team had lots of free time as well, and being with the people she cares about helped her to relax. They spent the time bonding with each other on the beach and in their shared Airbnb house.

“Our coach was very nice, and let us go to the beach, which was really fun,” Newton said. “I mean, five days is a lot of time to swim, and many events were spread out. We went to the beach in between the final races, and it was so nice to get in the sun. We had a lot of fun because we would joke around in the pool [and on the beach], and I feel like I really bonded with my team, which helps me relax more.”

Because her team is so tight-knit, Newton is struggling with having to leave her team for college, especially after this successful meet.

“This makes me sad that I have to leave my team, especially now that I feel like we’re so much closer to each other. I am also excited at the same time because I am going to swim in college, and I am going to get better at swimming,” Newton said. “I am also excited because I’m going to form deep relationships with new friends, and I am looking forward to that.”

Throughout her journey from swimming at practice to swimming at a national competition, Newton has learned some life lessons.

“I found out that it doesn’t matter what you do as long as you enjoy it,” Newton said. “Everyone has their own identity, and it doesn’t just come from one thing. People try to assign an identity to you based on what you’re good at or what you spend your time doing, but I am not just a swimmer. There are a lot of different aspects of my identity, and swimming is just one part of what I enjoy doing.”