Lauren Sims calmly braced herself at the Morgan County Aquatic Center on Jan. 31.
Feeling intense determination, the Covenant junior prepared to dive into the water and prove herself at the GICAA swimming championship.
She did just that as she raced to her best finishes of her career. She claimed the girls 100-yard butterfly and helped win the medley relay team, freestyle relay team and overall state champion team titles for Covenant. She also placed second in the 50-yard freestyle, missing first by just .34 of a second.
“It was pretty crazy,” Sims said of her state championship performance. “We were determined to take home a state title. With our whole team determined to win the entire meet, that made us work harder. Everyone did awesome. It was so much fun.
“(Swimming) is an individual sport, in the sense you’re swimming every race yourself, but it’s a team sport. We’re all contributing to the point value of our team, and we’re all encouraging each other.”
Sims, The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Swimmer of the Year, and other Covenant swimmers, including her sister Emily who was part of both winning relay teams, swim with Swim Macon, a club team that brings together athletes from around the area.
“With Swim Macon -- I don’t think you get this with any other sport in Macon -- but we have three or four private schools and the public schools, and we swim together,” Sims said. “I’m friends with people I’d never be friends with otherwise. You don’t normally practice with other teams. It’s a unique thing.”
That community, combined with taking a break from swimming for a few months to play tennis for Covenant, volunteer at a children’s camp and focus on maintaining her 3.93 GPA, helps Sims hone in on her goals when she does return to the pool.
“When she comes back to swim in August, she has a lot of pressure,” said Laura Sims, Lauren’s mother and coach at Covenant. “She has that pressure of, ‘I’m behind everybody. I have to catch back up,’ and she gets to it. She is working so hard those first few months that she comes back, because she is determined to get back where she was and get faster.
“That is exactly what she did this year. She started out behind everybody again, and by a month, month-and-a-half, she’d caught back up to where she was. If anything, you can say she’s determined. That child is overflowing with determination.”
For Lauren Sims, who has been involved in organized swimming since the seventh grade, the hard work has paid off.
“I love swimming. I love the community and the exercise I get out of it,” Sims said. “It makes me happy. It’s rigorous, but it’s worth it.”