Over the summer, senior Hailey Waltenburg was looking forward to her last year of cheerleading at Glenbrook North as a return to normalcy during the COVID-19 pandemic. But to her disappointment, a week before tryouts, she found out the football season she was planning to cheer for was postponed until the spring. However, Waltenburg already had a plan to stay involved with athletics at GBN.
“I knew that there was a chance that cheer could be canceled so … I used to joke around with my friends like ‘What if I joined swimming?’” Waltenburg said in a video conference.
After talking with her friends on the swimming and diving team, she did just that. Waltenburg joined the JV2 team, returning to the pool after about seven years of not competing. She is one of six new members on the team.
Another upperclassman who joined the team with Waltenburg is senior Nikki Nemerson, who decided to join after her club rowing season was postponed.
Nemerson said in a phone interview that neither the coaches nor the returning swimmers put any pressure on her or the other new team members to excel in the pool.
Assistant Swim Coach Justin Jornd said in an email correspondence that most of the new swimmers come from athletic backgrounds, so they already know the dedication required to learn a new sport.
“The group is very lively and social, which can be a challenge when coaching,” said Jornd. “But as [the] season has progressed, they’ve redirected that energy and camaraderie into the pool.”
Junior Sophie Cohn, a swimmer since freshman year, said in a phone interview that new members swim in their own lanes so the coaches can guide them as needed. Despite the separation from veteran members, the new athletes have been able to keep up with the others during practices, and have also brought their own energy to the team.
According to Waltenburg, even though she has not competed in swimming in over seven years, she feels cheerleading has given her the athleticism necessary for the sport.
“For my last three years, I have really learned to push my limits and push myself to really work on my cardio and push even when it is uncomfortable and I think that really [helped] when I joined swimming,” Waltenburg said.