CARY – Melissa Rose is a lot of things.
She’s ambitious. She’s athletic. She’s friendly.
Perhaps most of all, though, the junior swimmer from Cary-Grove is driven.
Rose is driven to compete. Rose is driven to succeed. Rose is driven to practice.
No, seriously, Rose is driven to practice.
The 16-year-old is grateful to her parents, Jim and Carmen, for the rides to swimming pools near (Crystal Lake) and far (Florida). Because while she’s old enough to have her license, her focus at the moment is 100 percent on swimming lanes and 0 percent on driving lanes.
Welcome to the crazy-busy, crazy-fun world of being a high school swimmer.
“It was kind of a mutual decision,” Rose said. “Practice and homework comes before driving.
“I’ll get my license, eventually.”
Traffic is horrible. Take your time.
Because just about anybody can sit behind a steering wheel and push down on a gas pedal. But not anybody can swim so hard and so fast that he or she qualifies for the state finals.
On Friday, as she does almost every day, Rose will jump into a pool and push her body to its limits. But this pool, and this day, will be different than almost any other. Rose will be at New Trier High School, host of the state finals, where she will compete in the preliminary rounds with the goal of advancing to compete Saturday for the top six places.
Officials will measure Rose’s time to the hundredth of a second.
Because for Rose – and every swimmer whose hard work largely goes unnoticed while we pour ink on sports such as football, volleyball and basketball – a hundredth of a second is almost impossible to comprehend. Try hundreds of hours. Now, you’re getting somewhere.
For Rose, a typical day in the life starts with a 5:45 a.m. alarm clock. Fun times.
Then again, it could be worse. As a freshman, Rose practiced before school from 5:30 to 7 a.m. because she could only get pool time in the morning.
Now, practice follows school, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. C-G does not have its own pool, so depending on the night or the week, Rose can be at any one of a few pools across the region. Often, she stays late to work on her turns or her starts or anything else, which means she does not return home until 9:45 or 10 p.m.
When she gets home, she finishes the homework that she started before practice.
As for Saturdays, those are practically a breeze. She doesn’t have to practice until 8 a.m.
“I get to sleep in a little bit, which is nice,” Rose said.
Sleep in? Um…
How many other 16-year-olds are awake by 8 a.m. on a Saturday? For that matter, how many 16-year-olds are awake by noon on a Saturday?
Rose laughed. She knows that most others her age are sleeping while she trains.
“By the time I’m done with practice, usually they’re just waking up,” Rose said. “But I love what I do. When I come home, I just take a nap, and I feel good about myself.”
Six days a week, for two hours a day, Rose trains in the pool. Three times a week, for between one and two hours per session, Rose takes part in additional “dry-land” training such as lifting weights, running and other cardiovascular exercises.
Some days can feel overwhelming, Rose said, but she battles through those days with the same strength that has made her a terrific swimmer. She is close with her family, including 18-year-old sister Emilie, and dreams of being able to swim in college.
Doing so would require more hours upon hours upon hours.
Rose is up for the challenge.
“I basically live at the pool,” Rose said. “I love it more than anything else.
“To train that much, you have to love it. I think the passion is really what keeps me going.”
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.