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A stroke of dedication makes waves in swimming nation

The whistle blows and junior Sabrina Bennani pushes off the block. The crowd chanting her name in support goes silent as she enters the water. She cannot hear anything except the deafening silence in the water as she enters. This is it. This is the moment that she spent almost a year preparing for. These two minutes against some of the best swimmers across the state of California. 

Benanni currently set a personal record 1:13.10 in the 100 meter breaststroke (long course) and 2:37.34 in the 200 meter breaststroke of which has allowed her to qualify for the Summer Junior National Cup, Junior National Cut and U.S. Open, where she will be swimming against previous Olympic swimmers for the same strokes.

“I had been training really hard and I just really wanted to get my summer junior national cut and I have been trying to reach it since last year. That was my goal but I didn’t get it andhis year due to the shut down, I was like ‘ Now there is no way I’m going to get it and I’m not training consistently’ and I was not sure but finally I had made it at a recent meet,” Bennani said. “I felt so happy that after all the hard work and the amazing coaches, I was able to get the cuts. It meant so much for me to achieve something that I was not able to achieve last year.”

In addition, Bennani was recently awarded as one of the Walnut High School swim team captains and was given the Academic All-American Award. In order to achieve this award, she was required to maintain a GPA of 3.5 and be a winner in a Junior National swim competition for the second year in her high school swimming career. Bennani has been contacted by Harvard University, Rice University, Arizona State University, Indiana State University and Ohio State University.

“I feel honored to be able to receive these awards because I know that the hard work that I put into it really pays off,” Bennani said.

Currently, Bennani is swimming for La Mirada Aquatics Club in La Mirada.

“Being on my current team has taught me that no matter what, you’re going to root for your teammate even if you do not swim your best you’re always going to be cheering for them.” Bennani said. “That is the team atmosphere that I have at La mirada and everyone is cheering for everyone even during practice and meets for me to do my best.”

Swimming to Bennani means more than just achieving a better time. It serves as a social outlet to relax with friends that share the same passion.

“For me swimming is like an outlet from life and the stress that it brings to me. I use swimming to feel good about myself,” Bennani said. “Sometimes when I get so stressed out with other things, I use swimming as a way to just have fun. I like going out there and competing and I love being able to push my body to the max during competitions.”

Bennani first started swimming with her mother at the age of 5 in the Mommy and Me classes at the Mount San Antonio pool in Walnut. After falling in love with swimming, she decided to try out swimming lessons with others around her age.

“I actually used to be afraid of the water. I used to be afraid of going into it. After a while I just realized that I could not go without it. I loved the feeling of pulling the water and the silence in the pool,” Bennai said. “It started when my parents finally asked me to try out regular swimming and I was like ‘Yeah I would like to try that out.’”

After more swimming lessons, Bennani eventually got into competitive swimming for Brea Aquatics. At the age of 9, she qualified for her first Summer Junior Olympics event.

“I was really nervous because there were lots of older girls at the meet and at the race. I was intimidated by them but I knew that Ihad worked hard,” Bennani said. “When I got up to the block, i was like ‘I’m going to go out there and have fun because I have already done the work and it’s time for me to cash out.’”

By Samuel Au, Feature editor
Photos courtesy of Sabrina Bennani