A Swimmer’s Soul
Junior Hallie Anderson reflects on her life in and out of the water
February 6, 2019
The sport of swimming not only takes a physical toll on the athlete but requires a lot of soul out of those who participate in it to endure the potential hardships that come with the sport. And that’s exactly what coaches and teammates see in junior Hallie Anderson when out on the water; they see a swimmer’s soul and dedication to the sport of swimming.
First dipping her toe into the pool at the age of four, out of her mother’s concerns for her safety after visiting her grandfather’s lakehouse, Anderson began competing at the age of five and currently competes with the Clayton Shaw Park (CSP) swim team and the Disabled Athlete Sport Association (DASA) swim team outside of school.
“I was probably like 4 or 5 when I began swimming and the only reason I started [swimming] is because my grandpa actually has a lakehouse and my mom didn’t want me to drown if I fell off the dock, so she was like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna go to Alligator Creek and she’s gonna learn how to swim and everything is gonna be fine’. And so it kinda just started from there,” Anderson said.
Since then, Anderson estimates that she has attended over a thousand meets, picking up various honors and recognition along the way including swimming at state last year.
But what truly separates Anderson from other swimmers is her impressive record in the world of paralympic swimming, which she began competing in over a year ago after being diagnosed with brittle bone disease at the age of 10.
“This past February, so it’ll be almost a year now that one of my coaches was like, ‘Hey, you could be a para-swimmer for this’. And I was like, ‘You’re joking me, right?’,” Anderson said.
And when Anderson expanded her repertoire by beginning to participate in the paralympic swim world, her career took off and she received the most highly esteemed recognitions in her long resume; holding the National Junior Record for the 100 freestyle in Paralympic swimming and making the cut for the 2020 National United States Paralympic Swim Team.
From there, Anderson began attending paralympic swim meets, garnering national attention as a National Junior Record Holder and making the National Paralympics Emerging Swim Team last year. However, as athletes are not chosen for the National Paralympic Swim Team, they must meet time standards that allow one to qualify for the team. And at the Para National CAN-AM meet in Arizona in December of 2018, Anderson did just that, placing second in the 100 fly event, third in the 200 individual medley event and third in the 50 free event.
Everyone, from Anderson’s coach to close friends, was elated by the news that Anderson had made the National Paralympics Team, expecting nothing less from the hard-working athlete.
“When her mother first called me with the news, I was so excited. Hallie works very hard and deserves this spot on their national team,” coach Danielle Althage said. “Since she isn’t the kind of person to go around telling everyone, I knew I wanted to make sure she was recognized for her hard work.”
But no matter how modest Anderson is about her accomplishments, none are more proud of her than her close friends and teammates.
“Honestly, I was extremely blown away, I was like, ‘I can’t believe one of my closest friends is going to be doing that’,” friend and teammate, junior Nicole Krohn, said of Anderson.
However, joining the National U.S. Paralympic Swim Team is no easy feat, with athletes having to complete hours-long physical examinations as a part of a process called ‘classification’, in which athletes are placed in a certain class in which they are to compete in.
“So [my coach and I] investigated it and it was super hard to get classified like you think it’s gonna be easy, but they tested every joint in my body, every single muscle,” Anderson said. “Like each individual joint in my fingers and toes; they wanted to test the strength of them to make sure and all that. So it was a three to four-hour process of just physical classification and then you have another hour in the pool of classification. So it’s like a four-hour process just to even get into the sport.”
And as exciting as the opportunity is to represent your country through your sport, Anderson doesn’t strive for the recognition, but rather for the safety the pool provides.
“Even as a kid, I felt like the water was kinda where I belonged like I didn’t feel different than anyone else in the water. So it’s kinda like an escape, a safe space,” Anderson said. “And I don’t know, there’s something exciting about competition, I have grown up around competition. So it’s just something to put all of my energy into.”
And all the energy Anderson puts into participating the sport shows in how her day revolves around swim as she runs through a jam packed afternoon routine that would make most people’s’ heads spin.
“It’s a pretty hard balancing act because I spend two hours in the pool every day, not including travel time,” Anderson said. “When I’m practicing with my club team, it’s about three and a half hours total. After school, I’ll come home and have a really quick snack before and everything like homework, eating, showering, comes after swim. But my night routine/my after school routine starts at approximately 8:30 or 9:30 at night. So it’s definitely a balancing act; sleeping enough, making sure I don’t fail school and then also training.”
As for Anderson’s future in the sport of swimming, while Tokyo 2020 is rather close for Anderson to compete at, as international classification is an even longer process, she sets her sights on The City of Lights as she hopes to compete in the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.
And as Anderson soars towards the top of the Paralympic swimming world, she strives to remain humble while being the best athlete she can be.
“Really take each individual as an individual,” Anderson said. “Just because I’m not the classic person on the Olympic team doesn’t mean I’m not just as up there with you.”
And despite all of the hardships that Anderson has encountered, she has the true soul of a humble swimmer, both in and out of the water.