Natural swimmer leads first- year team into new waters

Rachel Simpson
Guest Contributor

IMG_6469Graphic By: Fernando Cabarlloi| The Hudsonian

The Viking Women’s Swim Team dives into their inaugural season next fall hopeful of winning a championship.

With the help of one distinctive freshman athlete, they are expected to be decorating the newly constructed Matonak Aquatics Facility with 2018’s National Title trophy.

“It will be a year of exciting firsts,” newly hired Head Coach Janice Miller said about the upcoming season.

“It’s the first time for Hudson Valley to have a pool, and the first time for us to compete with a swim team,” said Miller. “It’s also the first time the NJCAA will see the unique athletic ability of someone like Aquaria.”

Aquaria Seawyd is the swimmer that most of the nation will be watching next fall.

Seawyd is a biology major, part-time tutor, captain of the swim team and a mermaid.

“For most of my life I tried to hide it,” said Seawyd. “I didn’t want anyone to call me a freak, but then I found my teammates, and I was able to relax in the water, be confident with who I am and find success,” said Seawyd.

“It can be hard to be different,” she said. “But sometimes it’s great to be different.”

That difference is exactly why Seawyd and the Viking swim team are expected to find unprecedented success in the upcoming season.

“Because she is a mermaid, she is a strong swimmer,” said Miller. “Actually, she is a really strong swimmer,” Miller added.

Despite her talent, however, Seawyd has never competed in any officially sanctioned swim competition. This season will be a first for her. She stayed out of competition because of fear about how others would react to her being a mermaid, but after just five weeks on the team, she is already setting records.

In practices this spring she posted unofficial NJCAA records in eight individual events including the 100, 200 and 1000 yard freestyle, the 50, 100 and 200 yard butterfly and the 50 and 100 yard breaststroke, all events she will compete in next fall.

Seawyd also plans to compete in the 200 and 400 yard freestyle relays and the 200 and 400 yard medley relays.
“Sure, she is an unbelievable athlete, but she is also a super teammate and a really kind person,” said Stephanie Shipman, sophomore member of the team.
“I think her life circumstance has made her strong and patient, which benefits her competitive attitude and makes her a good friend,” said Tara Fisher, another teammate Seawyd’s. “I hope she breaks all the records.”

Coach Miller agrees with her team and shares the same hopes for the upcoming season.

“It can usually take two or three seasons to really get a program up to a competitive level, but we think we will be there already, especially with the addition of Aquaria to our team,” said Miller. “We were all surprised at first, but she’s a great kid, student, and a leader. We are expecting big things,” Miller added.

Yet along with the positivity on her team and anticipation in the swim community, there is also controversy.
“Some people think she has an unfair advantage being a mermaid,” Miller said, speaking about the eligibility complaints filed by 127 other schools. “The NJCAA ruled that she meets all the requirements to compete,” Miller said.

The NJCAA cleared Seawyd to compete and wrote an official statement last week which stated, “Seawyd’s situation is certainly unique, but after serious deliberation, we have determined that to disallow Seawyd’s participation would be a violation of anti-discrimination laws.”

“Some people think Michael Phelps has an unfair advantage because he is so tall and his arms are so long,” said Seawyd. “But that is just the way he was born, and it’s the same for me,” she said.

“I have a distinct physical attribute that helps me compete,” she said. “I’m not cheating like taking steroids; this is just the way I am.”

The nation will get to see exactly who she is this fall. The team, along with Seawyd, have their first competition scheduled to be held at the Matonak Aquatics Facility Oct. 3, 2017. It will be nationally televised, another first for the college.

Looking ahead to that first competition, Seawyd said she was already feeling nervous because of all the pressure and controversy surrounding her swimming, but that records and championships weren’t her focus.

“Most important is that I have finally been able to embrace my uniqueness,” Seawyd said. “For the first time, I will be a proud mermaid,” she said. “It feels so good to finally admit it.”

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