By Samantha Sansevere Special to FOXSportsNorth.com
The latest definition of irony: A national record-breaking swimmer who doesn’t like being wet.
“I don’t really like water. I hate being wet,” Rachel Bootsma said. “In the pool, I’m fine, but I hate when I get in and out. I don’t like it. I hate just standing on deck when I’m wet, because it just makes me uncomfortable. When I’m in the pool, I’m fine. But the initial getting in is not always fun.”
Maybe that’s why Rachel is so fast. Maybe she’s not racing against the clock or the other people in the pool. Maybe she’s just trying to get out of the water as quick as she can.
Whatever the reason, it sure is working. She’s getting out of the water faster than many high school kids ever have, particularly in the 100-yard backstroke, an event in which she recently set two national records.
Rachel, a 16-year-old junior at Eden Prairie High School, is a charismatic young woman who enjoys spending time with her friends, having a good time with her older sister, Katie, and reading. She likes to watch “The Office,” and is a big Taylor Swift fan. Really, she’s just your average teenage girl.
Except she likes to swim. A lot. And she’s kind of awesome at it.
Most kids in the eighth grade don’t have many awards or trophies to put on their shelves. Only a hand full of them have accomplished more than being on the honor roll. When Rachel was in the eighth grade in 2007, she won her first state championship. She’s only getting better with age. On Nov. 20, Rachel broke the national high school record and national age-group record in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 51.53 seconds during the Class 2A state finals at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. The old record was 51.85 seconds.
Later in the state finals meet, Rachel dominated in the 100-yard butterfly, which she swam in state-record time (52.73) while nearly breaking the national record in that event, too. She led her team to a second-place finish behind Edina.
Rachel learned how to swim when she was about three.
“When I lived in Florida, my dad didn’t want us to drown in the ocean,” she said. “So, he started giving us swimming lessons.”
She started her competitive swimming career when she was eight years old.
With a youth athlete this fantastic, one thought that comes to mind is how pushy the parents must be. A lot of the time, that is the case: Over-supportive parents sticking their kids in sports at young ages, hoping to be the parent to the next big thing. With Rachel, that wasn’t the case at all.
“My parents are really laid back. Totally supportive of swimming. They don’t care if we win, or lose, or get disqualified, or even just want to quit,” she said. “They just want us to be happy. They’re always there no matter what. It’s nice. It’s really nice.”
When Rachel was 14, she swam a time which qualified her to take part in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Ten years ago, Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps competed in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials as well — at the age of 15. Rachel didn’t make it onto the Olympic Swim Team, but to simply compete with such elite swimmers at the age of 14 is a feat all its own. She placed 35th out of 121 swimmers, with a time of 1:03.17 that was lower than her Olympic Trials qualifying time of 1:03.20.
“It was a really good experience for me,” Rachel said. “It was a real eye opener.”
She’s traveled the world to compete as a member of the USA Swimming’s National Youth World Cup Team, and has gone to places such as Berlin and Guam. Her favorite location? “In June this year, I went to Barcelona. It was a beautiful city,” she said. “I really liked that.”
While Rachel is familiar to other swimmers around the globe, she is not as well known closer to home.
“A lot of people at my school don’t know that I swim,” she said, after being asked the one thing that most people don’t know about her. “So I think that’s surprising to me. I think they’re starting to get it, but not really.”
Give it time, Rachel, and I’m pretty sure they’ll take the hint.
Here is a bit more about Rachel: Favorite color: Purple. Favorite musician: Taylor Swift Favorite book: My Sister’s Keeper Favorite class: Sign Language Least-Favorite class: History Favorite breakfast food: Yogurt and granola. Favorite TV show: The Office Lucky charm: “I don’t believe in that.” Superpower of choice: Reading people’s minds Most prized possession: “My baby blanket that I’ve had since I came home from the hospital; I sleep with it every night.”
Samantha Sansevere is a 15-year-old sophomore who lives in Orono. She has won 11 national championships showing Shetland Ponies and Miniature horses and became a varsity cheerleader at Orono High School while in the sixth grade. She also is a varsity letter winner in track and field for Orono High School.