Lauren Swistak swims through life with purpose

Swistak currently has the fifth fastest time in the 200 metre butterfly this season.

A third-year criminology student, Swistak is at the top of her swimming game. She’s helping the SFU Clan to recent victories over the University of Victoria and Seattle University in dual swimming meets. She currently holds the fifth-fastest time in the 200 metre butterfly in the NCAA D2 in this season, and was honoured alongside Adrian Vander-Helm as College Swimming’s National Swimmers-of-the-Week for Division II the week of January 20.

Despite a rough start to her university swimming career, Swistak has shown that determination and hard work pays off in the pursuit of greatness. “I’m happy that my training is clicking,” she says.

Swimming came into Swistak’s life at the age of nine, when she began taking part in summer club. She would swim during summer, alongside playing soccer. What pushed Swistak towards swimming was a conversation with her soccer coach on priorities. “He basically sat me down and told me that I had to choose,” Swistak recounted. In the end, she moved bravely into the swimming world, for its individual nature. “It’s a bit selfish, I guess. But I get to be in control of my own fate.”

What ultimately pushed Swistak to go the competitive route with her swimming was the fact that she wanted the chance to compete against others. During her time in Swim Kids, the Red Cross swimming lesson program, “I wasn’t really learning the strokes; I just wanted to race people,” she said.

It was this competitiveness and talent that drew Simon Fraser Aquatic (SFA)’s Head Coach Liam Donnelly to Swistak. She swims the 200 metre butterfly, and also does distance freestyle. When asked why she chose to pursue butterfly as her stroke of choice, Swistak says that it’s “more glamourous” and that it makes her feel “tougher.” While she would prefer butterfly over distance freestyle, she says that ultimately will do whatever helps the team.

“I can’t think of myself not swimming. It’s a part of me.”

During the regular season, she competes in the NCAA with the SFU Women’s team and with coach and Cory Beatt, whom she affectionately calls her “second dad.” During the off season, she trains with the SFA team, under the coaching of Beatt.

This strong relationship that Swistak has built with Beatt, as well as her fellow teammates, is a big reason why Swistak feels that her swimming is finally clicking. She discussed how the women’s team, after a heartbreaking loss to Seattle University in October, banded together to beat the team in a dual meet in January. Through their teamwork and motivation, the women’s team got the comeback they wanted. “We felt so connected [after that win. . .] it’s one of my highlights for this year, and my best memories with the women’s team.”

Swistak’s sights, like many other athletes, are set on the Olympics. Her proudest moments are reflective of her talent and dedication towards that goal: at 10 years old, she received her first provincial qualifying time in 100 metre freestyle that put her through to provincials. Eight years later, while she was in grade 12, Swistak made the B finals for World Trials for the very first time.

Sandwiched in-between an intense water training and voluntary dry land training schedule, Swistak says that ultimately time management is a must in order to be able to complete everything she needs to do to be successful, from studying to taking time off to relax. Between juggling the many different aspects of her life, she has resigned to the fact that her criminology degree will take her five years, but she enjoys her classes and is taking life day by day.

But taking swimming out of Swistak’s life, she says, would be “sad.” Swimming has helped her to develop important values, such as setting goals, good time management, and commitment. “It’s provided me with a lot of structure. [. . .] I can’t think of myself not swimming. It’s a part of me.”

With this path and her determination, Swistak’s optimism for her future is refreshing, and she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.