Last week, Ana Orellana, reached a pinnacle that wasn’t possible to pursue just last year, she had an opportunity to compete in a Virginia High School League (VHSL) Championship for swimming. Ana is a senior at L.C. Bird High School, a Chesterfield County Public School, that’s in its first official sanctioned season in the VHSL. When Ana took the blocks in last week’s VHSL Regionals, she was surrounded with very familiar scenery. The VHSL Championships are held at SwimRVA, the exact place that Ana has taken swim lessons, and practiced daily with her teammates for her high school.
The origin of Ana’s swimming journey began with joy, curiosity and obstacles. She expressed passionately, “I really liked swimming as a kid, and when I was little my parents couldn’t really bring me to swim practices…because my parents were always working.” Though Ana wasn’t able to compete in swimming as a child, she did learn to swim at a YMCA, around the age of 6 or 7, which allowed her to enjoy leisure activities in the water with comfort and safety.
The yearn to swim competitively never left Ana. She returned to swim lessons at the age of 17 to sharpen her skills, accompanied by her nephew. The duo joined the SwimRVA Swim School, where Ana was assessed and put in Station 6 and her nephew began at Station 1. “It had been a long time since I stopped swimming, so I wanted to swim again, but I didn’t want to just jump right back into it because it had been so long, so I just wanted to start really slow,” said Ana.
In her junior year at L.C. Bird, Ana, caught wind of a new swim club at her school so she decided to join the newly formed high school club team. She finally would be able to compete in a team setting, which she’d wanted to do since a child. “Now that I’m older I have the opportunity to be able to swim so I’m going to take the advantage that the school is giving me,” said Ana. As a high school swimmer, she discovered that her favorite stroke is freestyle and her strengths are competing as a sprinter, in the 50 and 100 free. She also got acclimated with the routine and the constant discipline it takes to become a successful high school swimmer. Ana speaks about the grind, “Coming to practice, getting into the cold pool and (participating in) meets…but’s it’s really worth it at the end of the day.”
This season, Ana’s senior year, has correlated with bigger and better things for area swimming. As of the 2017-2018 school year, for the first time in history, all Chesterfield County public school swim teams are officially sanctioned by the VHSL. Now captain of her team, Ana became fully engulfed it what the sport of swimming is all about. “Being on the swim team has really taught me a lot, it’s really a competitive sport, it’s not just, get in the pool and swim. You have people that you meet and it’s really amazing because they become like family to you, spending so much time with them.”
In one year, the L.C. Bird swim team has improved, and Ana has recognized the growth, “We’ve got a few more people, we’re working harder, swimming more, and progressing.” The progression is apparent from witnessing Ana on the starting block at the regionals, and success is evident in the excitement she expressed when declaring her qualification in the 50 free a week before that day.
Ana’s love for swimming and willing participation in the sport has contributed greatly to swimming in the Richmond region. Hopefully, years from today, Ana, will find pride in the fact that she helped pioneer a new era of swimming within her community.