When thinking of swimmers and their share of serious injuries, concussions don’t leap to mind.
But when senior Lauren Vavruska’s head met a counter top in early January, 2012, a concussion that kept her out of the pool for 10 months ensued.
Despite that forced vacation from training, Lauren still managed to break a 25-year-old school record for the 50-yard freestyle and became the only Shaker swimmer to qualify for the state meet this year.
Because she missed so much pool time with her injury, Lauren admitted she was afraid she would never swim as fast as she had in previous seasons. “It was weird being out of the water that long,” said Lauren, who is used to swimming nine practices a week during the season.
Lauren broke the 50-yard freestyle record by swimming 23.89, going 0.04 faster than the previous race record. “I was so excited, and it felt incredible,” she said. But the 50-yard freestyle was not the first Shaker record she has broken. “In middle school, I broke the record for the 50-yard breaststroke,” she said. She also broke the record for the 50-yard freestyle and the 100-yard freestyle at Spire Institute this past year.
Head swim coach Eric Peterson had a feeling that she could break the record. “She had a very strong freshman year, and we thought it might be possible for her to work up towards breaking the 50 record,” said Peterson, who just completed his sixth year at the helm.
Before swim season started in November, Lauren conditioned by rowing for the spring and fall crew seasons. “Crew really was the reason I broke the record,” she said. “It strengthened my legs, which are the weak part of my race.”
During Lauren’s freshman year, her older sister, Marisa Vavruska, was also a member of the swim team. The sibling rivalry ultimately pushed both sisters to work harder. “Freshman year we were always put against each other. Coaches would put us together and place bets on who would win,” Lauren said. Marisa said that the friendly competition pushed them both to do their best.
Ironically, given her concussion, Lauren began swimming because her sister was swimming, and the girls’ mother wanted Lauren to stay safe. “I would run around in the stands during my sister’s swim practices, and my mom thought I would crack my head open, so she signed me up,” she said.
Lauren qualified for states all three years that she was healthy, but her familiarity with the competition didn’t tarnish her excitement this year.
“Going to states is always exciting. There are so many people, and it is a great experience,” Lauren said. “However, this year it was a bit lonely being the only one [from Shaker].” Lauren described states as a competitive intense atmosphere that makes you want to go fast. Lauren tied for 13th at states this year with a 24.6 in the 50-yard freestyle.
“Lauren worked hard in and out of the pool this year,” said sophomore swimmer Casey Crowley. According to Crowley, Lauren displayed a great attitude during practices that teammates found challenging. Crowley added that Lauren helped her to look at challenging practices as an opportunity to make herself faster and to cheer on her teammates.
Come fall, Lauren will attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and continue to participate in crew. However, Lauren ended her competitive swimming career this season because she doesn’t like swimming enough to commit at a Division I program.
“Lauren is a tremendously talented swimmer who doesn’t take her talent for granted, Peterson said. “She has worked very hard throughout her high school career to achieve the level of success she has attained.”
A version of this article appeared in print 8 May 2013 on page 11 of The Shakerite