Last month, the Villages of Urbana Seahawks swim team started its ninth season with the Frederick Summer Swim League (FSSL). Like many kids from the neighborhood, Adrianna Morris, who turns 13 this month, has been with the team from its beginning in 2003.
Adrianna reluctantly went to her first swim practice at age 4 when older siblings Megan and Matt joined the team. Her parents, Karen and Scott Morris, immediately got involved to help support the inaugural season of the team, so Adrianna had to go to the pool often. She wasn’t a big fan and was a bit fearful of the water. Little did Adrianna know that nine years later, swimming would be her sport of choice.
That first year, Adrianna enjoyed her time at the pool. She loved the attention she got from the older kids at the pool, and her family said she became like a mascot for the team. But she continued to shy away from getting in the pool.
“I had to practically throw her in the pool to get her to swim,” Karen said. “One of the best ways to learn to swim is to join the swim team.”
So Adrianna became the youngest member of the first Seahawks team. She preferred the backstroke, since it was the only way she could swim the length of the pool then.
By the end of the first season, Adrianna swam both the freestyle and backstroke easily, and her parents realized she was a natural. She seemed to really enjoy it and didn’t even mind getting up at 6:15 a.m. each weekday morning for practice.
When the summer season ended, Adrianna and her sister Megan, then 13, began swimming for the Frederick YMCA’s winter team. By the time the Seahawks’ second began, Adrianna had lost all her fear of the water. She swam all four major strokes, but her favorites were breaststroke and freestyle. As her speed steadily improved, she began to win some races, which made her want to swim even more.
“It was really fun, and then I really liked the action and competition,” Adrianna said. Megan and Matt still work as lifeguards at Urbana pools but went on to other sports. For Adrianna, however, it was all about swimming.
“The turning point for Adrianna was around sixth grade,” said Karen. “She was hooked.”
In the Seahawks’ third season, almost-8-year-old Adrianna swam fast enough to qualify for the end-of-season Frederick County all-star meet, plus several individual events.
“I have really been amazed with her progress,” said VOU resident Nick Edler, who has been with the team since the beginning and an assistant coach for the past three years. “She has really come a long way, from being a cute little toddler running around the pool during practice to one of the top swimmers in the area.”
Adrianna continued to swim each year for winter leagues. She now swims for Monocacy Aquatic Club (MAC), and she and her parents are excited about a new state-of-the-art swim facility, which is scheduled to open at Hood College in September, through a partnership with MAC.
Adrianna swims from May until August for the summer team, then September through April for the MAC club team. She practices four to five days per week and competes in swim meets most Saturdays. Several times a year, she also swims in state and regional events throughout Maryland, often full-day events from Friday morning until Sunday evening. She has broken several individual and team records for the Seahawks and in state events.
Adrianna now competes with swimmers throughout the D.C. metropolitan area, has placed fourth in breaststroke events, and has won fifth or sixth place in others. Many events are 200- to 500-meter individual or medley events in either short- or long-course pools. She prefers the short course, which requires a little less endurance and where the shorter pool allows swimmers to push off on the walls at each end during a race.
In March, she competed in the Maryland State Championship at the U.S. Naval Academy. She qualified for seven events and competed with top swimmers in the area. She has been at some of the same events as Olympic champion Michael Phelps. She hasn’t met him yet but got close and took a few pictures.
Adrianna is one of the top athletes in her age group. She can’t attend every Seahawks practice due to her MAC commitment, but she usually swims at most Saturday meets. Like many sports, swimming requires a great deal of dedication, for both the swimmers and their parents.
“There is very little time off for year-long swimmers,” said her father, Scott, “and Adrianna had to develop time-management skills and discipline to manage her swim team practices and meets, plus homework, eating, sleeping and once in awhile enjoying time with friends.”
Edler agreed. “I am impressed at how she can put the rest of her life aside to focus on swimming.”
It can be a big tradeoff — getting up early and staying up late, starting homework immediately after school before eating and hurrying to practice. Adrianna rarely sees her non-swim-team friends and has missed many social events. However, she says it’s worth it. Her mother says she loves the camaraderie and support she has always received from fellow team members, many of whom have become close friends.
Adrianna agreed and said, “The best part of swimming is being with my friends.” She enjoys the competition, but more against her previous achievements than other swimmers. “We cheer each other on and celebrate when someone wins. We just want to get better and improve our time.”
Adrianna hopes to swim in college in a few years and will swim as long “as long as it’s still fun.” Another goal, besides improving her skills and race times is to reach Olympic trial levels and work out at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Adrianna’s parents have willingly sacrificed much for their talented daughter, putting in long hours driving, cheering her on, serving on boards, helping to support and manage the teams, and often planning family vacations during the short break between seasons in August.
“As long as she really wants this, we will continue to support her,” Karen said. “It has to come from within, and she drives this wagon until she decides to stop.”