Sydney Tran has enjoyed the challenges of a more competitive swim team and school, but does miss some of the freedoms allowed students in her native Ontario.
“The lunch system was much better in Canada,” Tran said. “We had a 70-minute lunch and you could go anywhere. Most kids would go to the mall for lunch. We’d just go to the mall for bubble tea and walk around.”
Tran, though, likes the culture at her new school, High School North and the weather is a plus to the move.
“The weather is better here,” she said. “There’s not much snow. I remember when they said it was a snow day, there wasn’t any snow.”
Tran’s family moved from Canada at the end of the summer, and the sophomore has found the move returned her to more competitive swimming. The North team has inspired her.
“The swim team here is way faster,” she said. “I think it helps push me to work harder and swim faster in competition. This school is more competitive than where I was from.”
Tran grew up swimming in Canada, and swam competitive for years, but took the year off from competition before her family moved. Getting back into the sport helped her adjust to her new surroundings.
“Everyone is really nice,” Tran said. “We have group gatherings to help everyone get closer. It helped me get closer with the different members of the team, especially the freshmen who are new like me. It’s a good environment.”
Tran was intent on finding new friends when she came to North. Like any new student, she was concerned with how she would fit. Guidance counselors and peer advisors told her to explore different activities to find people with common interests. She tried Art Club, stage crew and K-Pop Club, but when swim season rolled around, she turned her attention full-time to the pool.
“I was happy they had a swim team,” Tran said. “A lot of the people I hang around with now are a part of the swim team.”
Tran is part of a Knights program that is putting together an historic season. Both the girls and boys teams stayed unbeaten with key wins over rival WW-P South on Jan. 7.
“The swimmers are definitely fast and they fit my expectations,” Tran said. “They also exceeded it. I didn’t think we’d go undefeated.”
The WW-P North boys are looking for their first Mercer County Championship on Feb. 1 while the girls will be looking for their second county crown in three years. Beyond that is the chance to win more hardware in states.
“We did figure that we would have a strong girls team this year,” said Knights head coach Todd Robinson. “We have a number of the girls that helped us to the sectional state title that we won two years ago when they were freshmen. A couple of them decided not to swim for the high school team last year but they came back this year. That was a huge help to us. We also had a number of really solid freshmen join the team.”
Tran’s addition to the team was a bonus. She has improved the Knights depth in breaststroke and freestyle and brings energy and excitement daily.
“She’s not one of our top point scorers, but she’s probably one of the most dedicated members that we have,” Robinson said. “She has not missed a single practice. She’s just a great kid with a great work ethic.”
Tran is working to get back to a higher competitive level. When she stopped competitive swimming last year, it meant going from daily workouts to one per week. She is a regular at practices now as she looks to return to her best times.
“In the beginning of the year, they were definitely slower,” Tran said. “Since we practice so many times a week, I can see improvement. It’s cool to see. We have this guy on our team who broke his record three times.
“I didn’t know what my times were at the moment I came,” she added. “I was hoping to get back my speed and get my times that I had before, which I have, which I think is a great achievement on my part.”
Tran has had to adjust to more than just a new environment and increased competition as well as recognizing the importance of the county and state meets to the team.
She still asks about the points scoring system that differs from the way Canadian swim meets are scored. Tran is working to pick up the most points she can for the Knights.
“I’m definitely trying to improve and go up the ranks on the relay team,” Tran said. “There’s A, B and C. I see people my age going faster than me. It motivates me to go faster. I see them trying hard in practice. They experienced the same stops in their practice (year-round for competitive swimming) as me.”
Tran has found that meets provide just as much of an inspirational lift as do practice opportunities. Being a part of a large and highly successful team has helped.
“I think the fact our team is so huge gives off the energy,” she said. “There’s always someone cheering for you at the other end of the pool. You see small teams and they’re not as loud. Our team has a lot of energy. When you see your teammates rooting for you, you go faster.”
Tran is hoping that she can produce some top times to help North as it aims for county and Central Public B state titles. The program is feeling especially proud because it has enjoyed success from both its boys and girls teams.
“We’ve never had an undefeated season on both sides,” Robinson said. “We’re heading into the county championships feeling really good about our chances on both sides.”
He also likes the team’s chances for both boys and girls to swim deep into the state tournament. The Knights have top-end talent and strong supporting depth. That combination has them in position to not just cover the events well, but score well in everything. Beyond that, WW-P North has some intangibles like experience that will help.
“We do have solid senior leadership,” Robinson said. “Our captains this year have done a nice job. Just having a number of girls on the team that have the experience of swimming deep into the state tournament, when we won that sectional title a couple years ago, I think that’s going to help a number of the younger swimmers.”
For Tran, her first year in the swim program and living in the United States has meant making some adjustments— more motivated students, harder classes, the new scoring system and new teammates, but the North swim team has offered a certain familiarity that has helped pique her interest.
“I kind of want to try club again,” she said. “Everyone is so fast, and I want to be one of the top kids on the team. Competitive swimming is really hard. I don’t know if I can handle it because this school district is so competitive. I should focus on my grades rather than joining another club. I’m probably going to try out for junior and senior year. I’m hoping I can become captain in my senior year.”