A fast paced music plays coupled with the sounds of splashing water and smell of chlorine. Several students wearing swimsuit and goggles are seen conversing with one another while others get ready for practice.
When practice begins, Gerryleo Sarmiento, 18, splashes her way through the Steven E. Schofield Aquatic Center, using her pure strength and undulating motion to form a powerful, yet swift, butterfly stroke.
Sarmiento, started swimming during the summer when she was 13, at El Cariso Park. Back then she did not have any intentions of becoming a swimmer.
“I was just going there for my family,” Sarmiento said. “My mom wanted me to try new things so I went, and I was mad for her trying to get me into the team. I said I can’t do this, I like working alone, and I can’t work on a team. I felt like I could fail the team if I did something wrong.”
The next thing Sarmiento knew was that she kept passing her classes. It was then that she realized she was pretty good at it.
“In high school I focused on swimming butterfly,” Sarmiento said. “I don’t know why, I was never able to do butterfly when I was at El Cariso. It was really hard for me during the first two years to do butterfly, and I never really wanted to do it. But I pushed myself to try and do it anyways, and made my family proud of course.”
In her last year of high school she was finally able to join the swim team, made it to Semifinals, and ended up getting the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award and the Most Determined award. She competed in the 500 and 100 Butterfly, the 100 Freestyle and also in the Medley Relay.
“After high school, I wasn’t planning on going to college, I wanted to go to a four year university straight ahead,” Sarmiento said. “I wasn’t planning on joining the swim team either, although I wanted too. Like the first day I kept passing by to go to my class, I kept looking at them swimming and I was like they’re fast I can’t do this.”
When Sarmiento was on assignment for a photography class she met Kailey Bennett, who was on the water polo team. Bennett encouraged her to meet the swim coach, Judi Terhar, and practice with them.
“I had to get my old record from my high school and show [Terhar] my times and what I used to do,” Sarmiento said. “I saw her face lit up when I told her I did butterfly in high school. She was like I need you on my team.”
Sarmiento was able to impress Terhar by telling her that she made it to the city finals in high school.
“She has improved a lot,” said Terhar.
According to Sarmiento, there are not a lot of people who like to do butterfly because it is a hard stroke and not everyone gets to be fast and have endurance for it.
“There was a competition where I ended up not completing my 100 fly, because I didn’t warm up and that really took a toll on me,” Sarmiento said. “I couldn’t pull my body, I was shaking and couldn’t finish the race. I’m also an anxious person and get anxiety attacks sometimes.”
Sarmiento has continued in her improvement to shake off her anxiety.
“During this whole season and especially the last competition, I felt like everything just left my system. I felt so calm, and got my best times. I beat my own personal records. It was awesome.”
To cope with anxiety during a competition, Sarmiento instead focuses her mind on the music playing, her teammates and coach cheering, and finishing the race. She believes the support she gets from her teammates, and coach is what gets her going and improved her times.
Last semester, she was a member of the Roundup Newspaper as a photographer. She is currently majoring in psychology, but would love to at least try out for the olympics some day. She also helps out at her old high school and trains kids on the swim team. The most important thing that helps her succeed is having a positive attitude.
“It’s all showing up with good attitude,” Sarmiento said. “If anyone gets negative we tell them no, stop it, be positive, it’s nice you get to practice, don’t give up now, we just got started, we can finish it.”
Even Bennet, who is on the swim team, believes she has been positive.
“She was always cheerful when she came to practice or anything, and was always positive no matter what the situation was,” Bennett said. “Over the season alone she has improved so much on her times and we’re also proud of her for it. She always tried her hardest all the time. She’s a great swimmer.”