Swimming is the absolute perfect sport for Trumbull junior Lauren Walsh, who thrives off competition.
“If I didn’t swim I don’t think I would be the same person,” Walsh said. “It gives me a sense of competitiveness, which I enjoy. I’m committed to swimming and going to practice every day. I feel that if you do something, you should put your best effort into it.”
Walsh certainly puts her optimum effort into swimming and it shows.
As a sophomore in 2019, Walsh won the 100-yard breaststroke title at the State Open with an all-America time of 1:01.96 and finished second in the 200 individual medley (2:01.42, all-America time). She competed on the Eagles’ 200 medley relay squad that placed second at the State Open and Class LL finals and earned all-America honors in the 100-yard butterfly (:55.45).
The 2019 FCIAC Championships saw Walsh win the 200 IM, place second in the 100 butterfly (all-America time of :55.45) and spark the team’s 200 medley relay to a first-place finish.
“I had such a good time my sophomore season, I remember watching the video of us swimming that 200 medley relay at FCIACs,” Walsh said. “Making those all-American cuts was so exciting. If I were to look back at my freshman year, I wouldn’t have thought that would happen.”
Walsh’s freshman year on the team was impressive, as she placed among the top eight in both the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke at the State Open, after placing third and second in the races at the Class LL competition. Yet she feels her personality among her teammates is different than in season’s past.
“I have definitely changed from freshman year to now,” she said. “Freshman year I was very quiet. Now I’m more of a leader. My teammates push me and support me.”
Trumbull coach Bill Strickland has noticed Walsh’s transformation into one of the team’s mentors and leaders.
“She started off as a very quiet individual, now she’s consistently helping out her teammates and being a positive role model on the team,” Strickland said. “After becoming the State Open champion, the state champion and earning all-American honors, she said they were team accomplishments. She’s very humble.”
In a season that has included a mix of virtual and in-person meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walsh has rewritten her team’s record books.
She recently broke a school record in the 50-yard freestyle, registering a time of 24.00 seconds. Mia Zajac, a 2019 graduate, held the previous record.
“I had it in my head to break the record in the 50 freestyle,” Walsh said. “I felt that I was going to do it and when I hit the wall, knowing that I did it, I had a big smile on my face.”
School records in the 200 freestyle and 100 freestyle events have also been set, courtesy of Walsh. She established a record in the 200 freestyle, touching the wall in 1:51.70 and clocked in at 51.77 in the 100 freestyle. Zajac also held the previous mark in the 100 freestyle (53.20).
“Her freshman year, we knew she was a strong swimmer and was very competitive,” Strickland said. “When we got to our big FCIAC championship meet I reminded her these are the athletes she competes against all the time and she had an outstanding meet.”
Competing in virtual meets, which don’t include opposing teams, is a challenge Walsh and her Trumbull teammates have successfully navigated.
“It’s been hard racing the clock and not a competitor next to me during virtual meets,” she said. “Our virtual meets are not as loud, so we have to put in a lot more effort to make it loud and create more excitement for ourselves.”
Walsh’s club swim team is the Shelton/Monroe Rapids, a program she joined as a third-grader, that’s led by coach Chuck Clark.
“Being part of the Rapids has given me a lot of passion for the sport and has definitely made me appreciate everyone surrounding me there,” Walsh said. “Some of my best friends that I swim with are with the Rapids.”
Motivation is not a problem for Walsh, who constantly finds ways to challenge herself.
“Swimming with the boys when I’m with the Rapids definitely motivates me to go faster,” she said. “They’re faster, which makes me want to beat them.”
The high school season presents Walsh with her busiest swimming schedule each year. She hones her swimming skills each day with the Rapids and Trumbull.
“Going to practice and seeing my friends motivates me to go every day,” Walsh said. “Also, I know what I have to do each day to reach my goals.”
One of the meets Walsh recalls fondly is the 2019 U.S. Open Swimming Championships, which was held at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta. She raced in the 100-meter breaststroke and 200 individual medley at the much-anticipated national meet.
“It was one of the most high-level meets that I’ve ever competed in,” Walsh said. “Seeing all those fast swimmers really inspired me. I was like, ‘I want to be like them.’”
On Nov. 14, Walsh will make a return appearance at the Richmond, Virginia-based U.S. Open Swimming Championships. She qualified to compete at the U.S. Open in the 100-meter breaststroke, 200 IM, 400 IM and the 200 breaststroke.
Swimming at the collegiate level is among Walsh’s aspirations.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of schools that are recruiting me and it’s been an awesome experience,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from talking to so many coaches of high-level swimming programs. Also, talking to some of the teams about what they do and how they train has been helpful to me.”
Walsh is happy she still has one more year left at Trumbull following this abbreviated 2020 season.
“We’re all close on the team and we’re able to motivate each other and have fun at the same time,” Walsh said. “Coach has helped me a lot through my swimming career. He gives me good (advice) to make me go faster in practice and he’s a good motivational speaker.”
During the spring, Walsh competes on Trumbull’s track and field team, also coached by Strickland.
“The endurance that track requires is important, so I plan on doing it this spring,” said Walsh, who mostly ran in the 200- and 400-yard races her freshman year.
Whether it’s in the pool or on the track, Strickland saw the same competitive fire and desire from Walsh.
“She’s very athletic, a strong individual and she works extremely hard,” Strickland said. “She gets very excited about seeing what she and her teammates can do. Lauren thrives off competition.”