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Athlete Profile: Lauren Mottel

Photograph+from+Lauren+Mottel.
Photograph from Lauren Mottel.

Photograph from Lauren Mottel.

Photograph from Lauren Mottel.

Stella W. '19, Writer

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Lauren Mottel has quite the schedule. A junior at Padua, she has balanced difficult courses and swimming for the school team since freshman year. She has powered through exhausting practices and competitions since the age of seven, and continues to swim despite multiple AP classes and the stress of college decisions. Throughout the difficulties, she has maintained a devotion to swimming worth admiring.

As with any sport, swimming has its ups and downs. “If you ask most swimmers, they will agree in saying there’s a love-hate relationship with the sport,” says Lauren. Describing it as requiring more “mental strength than physical,” Lauren explains how swimming has allowed her to push herself further than her limits (and patience), but the payoff ultimately being worth all the frustration. “Nothing compares to the feeling of getting a best time, the feeling of swimming the best race of your life, the feeling of accomplishment that comes the moment you hit the touchpad and finish the race.”

Nothing compares to the feeling of getting a best time, the feeling of swimming the best race of your life, the feeling of accomplishment that comes the moment you hit the touchpad and finish the race.”

— Lauren Mottel

Swimming is, of course, an individual effort, but Lauren feels a strong sense of connection to her fellow swimmers. “At States freshman year, I had gone under a minute in the 100 yard butterfly for the first time ever and had won the consolation final, and I was so ecstatic and surprised when I saw my time on the scoreboard that I hugged the girl in the lane next to me from Cape Henlopen, who I had never met in my life,” she says. “Even though it is mostly an individual sport, at its core, the support system made up of my wonderful teammates, coaches, and family is what helps me get through it all.”

A dedicated swimmer knows that swimming is not easy. It can be time-consuming, as well as exhausting, both mentally and physically. “It requires commitment and dedication,” says Lauren. “If I miss one practice, it will feel like I’m drowning the next day (an exaggeration, but still you get the idea).” And as anyone who has worked hard to improve in a sport or hobby will know, it can be discouraging. “It legitimately feels like rock bottom sometimes, with signs of improvement nowhere in sight,” she says. “Yet with patience and hard work, you eventually get out of that rut. One of my coach’s main sayings is, ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten,’ and I remind myself of that quote every now and then to help get myself out of that rut and work towards improvement from a new angle and perspective.”

There is one story that has stuck with Lauren, and highlights what she loves about swimming. When she was 13, during her spring championship meet, she was the second seed going into finals for the 200 yard butterfly. She was behind one of the fastest girls at the meet, who went on to the Olympic Trials for Rio. The whole experience was nerve-wracking. “ I was beyond nervous: my legs were shaking,” she says. “I was constantly adjusting my goggles, and just when I had finally settled my nerves and was ready, the officials announced a ten minute break for no apparent reason, prolonging my anxiety.” When the whistle blew and everyone got on the blocks, she felt a momentary sense of calm. “I remember the starter going off and diving into the pool, being immersed in the cold water,” she says. “I remember all other sound from the crowd being muffled.” As she swam, steadily aware of the girl in the lane next to hers, she heard her older teammates cheering. Her coach whistling incessantly, she realized how close the race was. “I wanted to start sprinting so badly because I knew I could do it—I knew I could win, but I refrained, biding my time,” she says. “I couldn’t feel my legs, yet they felt so strong.” In the final strokes, she out-touched the girl by a split second. “It was easily one of the best races of my life,” she says. “From that point, my main event has been the 200 butterfly.”

One of the biggest challenges for a Padua athlete is balancing athletics and schoolwork. Lauren is no stranger to hard work, however, and has developed strategies that have allowed her to succeed in both areas. “Swimming has definitely taught me how to manage my time effectively because I learned how to value the time I have and figured out how to be the most productive I can be,” she says. “I think the mental discipline that comes with swimming has extended into my work ethic, allowing me to get things done.” The majority of her practices during the week are in the evening, so she tries to get as much done as possible before practice. Especially during busy weeks, Lauren does homework due the next day first and tackles long-term assignments when she has time. “I don’t let myself go to sleep past 11 PM either because I know I’ll find a way to get things done on time,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, I definitely procrastinate and proudly take naps to avoid my responsibilities, but swimming helps me keep myself in check.”

As Lauren’s senior year in high school approaches, she has had to consider whether she will continue swimming in college or not. “I love the idea of swimming in the NCAA during college,” she says. “Although as of right now, I don’t think I’d want to swim at Division I or II mostly because I’d like to focus more on academics than sports.” As of right now, she thinks she will swim in Division III, giving her time to focus on all aspects of college life. And even if she decides not to swim at the NCAA level, she plans to continue on the intramural team on campus. “I don’t think I could give up something I’ve done and loved for so long that easily,” she says. No matter her decision, Lauren is undeniably a swimmer for life.

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