Megan Van Valkenburg
Will Bonnett: from surgery to state in one swim season
At the beginning of boys swim season, sophomore Will Bonnett imagined he would be training for the first meet with his teammates, not in recovery after emergency ear surgery.
The surgery, originally planned as a postseason operation, grafted skin from behind Bonnett’s ear onto his eardrum to help his ear heal back together. This forced Bonnett to recover outside of the water for the first half of the season. Despite the challenge, Bonnett still strived to work for his goals.
“He committed to come to practice every day and work hard in the weight room. We came up with a plan to keep him strong and ready to come back to swim workouts,” swim coach Coleen Sumner said. “Will is a good athlete, so he agreed to do dryland that included a mix of cardio and resistance training. Will is a smart swimmer who knows what he needed to do while waiting for swim clearance; we could trust him to do the workouts with a good effort so he could come back and compete.”
Bonnett continued contributing to the team despite staying dry for nearly four weeks.
“My teammates, especially in my lane, really push each other during the sets, especially the hard sets. We push each other to keep going, or if we’re trying to hold an interval, we support each other and keep each other going,” freshman Jeremiah Lynn said.
Even without Bonnett’s physical contributions, the team was able to achieve nearly 60 point wins over five teams and won the Cape Girardeau Invitational, conquering the previous Class 1 State Champion Cape Girardeau Central.
“It was a different experience for me because I’ve always been in the water, so being able to be more on the team aspect was better for me because I started to realize this isn’t just me, it’s a team,” Bonnett said.
Nearly a month after surgery, Bonnett was cleared to help the team in the water once again.
“The first day I got back in the water was the best. I hopped back in, and I was just so excited to swim. And that’s something that, if you do a sport every day, you start to get bored of it and sick of it, but getting back in was such a rejuvenation–it was great,” Bonnett said.
Not only was Bonnett excited for his return, but the coaching staff and his teammates were as well.
“The best part was that day, the whole team watched him get ready with his cap and goggles, and he jumped in as everyone cheered him on… it was a pure joy watching him,” Sumner said. “He went on to swim in his first meet of the season, and in his first event he got his state cut in the 200 individual medley (IM).”
Bonnett’s teammates have enjoyed sharing in his successes, including winning first place in the 200 IM at the conference championship Nov. 6.
“It’s been really fun; he’s a great swimmer, so it’s been amazing to watch him swim, getting better and better. As a sophomore, [he’s] getting a bunch of state cuts and winning events so it’s been really fun to watch,” Lynn said.
This process of healing has given Bonnett the opportunity to reflect on his outlook toward swimming.
“I think it’s helped my technique a lot, but I think it’s mostly helped my attitude towards swimming. I think you fall into an attitude that swimming is just boring, staring at a line all the time, but when you can’t do something you really love, you start to realize how much you love it. And that really helped my attitude change,” Bonnett said.
Bonnett’s dedication has landed him a full slate of events, including three individual events and two relays, at the state meet Nov. 14-15.
“Will swims with a lot of guts and heart–surgery definitely did not hold him back,” Sumner said. “The team is excited about the upcoming state meet and is filled with lots of hopes to be back on the podium.”