MEET CLAIRE SHURMUR Competitive swimmer credits sport for her mental toughness
BY CARLEE CARBONE, contributing editor, Summit Local
NAME: Claire Shurmur
AGE: 18
SCHOOL: Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child
EVENT: Backstroke/IM
How long have you participated in this sport/activity?
12 Years.
What is your favorite teacher/mentor’s name?
Ms. Mull – Latin Teacher, and Jim Wood – Swim Coach
Who do you idolize in this sport/activity?
Olivia Smoliga! She’s a backstroker (like myself) and I admire her ability to be so positive. Swimming is a difficult sport physically, but mental toughness makes all the difference when it comes to race day. Olivia Smoliga is able to keep a smile on her face at all times, even just moments before she hops in to do her start. Her social media page is full of positive messages and resources for swimmers. I want to be her best friend and training partner (or just like her!)
Where do you normally practice?
Berkeley Aquatic Club in New Providence.
Are you on a team?
Yes, both Berkeley Aquatic Club and Oak Knoll School.
Have you met anyone famous in this sport/activity?
I have! Two years ago I was able to meet Ryan Murphy, Kathleen Baker (two other backstroke idols of mine), Kevin Cordes, and Cullen Jones at a Giants game. It was such an amazing experience, meeting some of the athletes I grew up watching every four years on TV at the Olympic Games. The greatest part of this experience was learning that they simply are people too. They are some of the world’s most decorated and successful
athletes, but they also enjoy eating popcorn at football games (just like myself.) Meeting these swimmers showed me that anyone can become successful, and that all swimmers are just like them in everyday life.
Have you traveled anywhere related to this sport/activity?
I have! Orlando, Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, Iowa City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Buffalo, and even Ottawa across the Canadian border. Moving every 2-3 years has made this list of cities range incredibly wide!
What events have you participated in?
I have swum virtually every event, but I specialize in Backstroke and IM events. The 200 Backstroke, 100 Backstroke, and 200 IM are my best events.
What awards or honors have you won?
My greatest achievement was placing 3rd in both the 200 IM and 100 Back at the NJ High School Preps championships in 2019. I surprised myself with those places! I was so happy to represent my high school team and
make them proud.
What have you learned from participating in this sport/activity?
Mental toughness, most specifically resiliency. Swimming is a unique sport in that one trains for multiple months (twice a day at times) for an individual event lasting anywhere from 25 seconds to 16 minutes. For myself and my best events, that’s an incredible amount of weight on a 2-minute events that I need to cut about 3-4 seconds in. If an event doesn’t go as planned, it is difficult for me to restrain myself from feeling like the past 3-4 months have gone to waste. Over the past 12 years of competitive swimming, I have taught myself to leave a bad race in the past, allowing only a few minutes to dwell on it. After that, it’s immediately time to create a plan to
fix what went wrong for the leading months ahead.
What do you like the most about the sport/activity?
The camaraderie. Each travel meet is a blast. The team busses or flies together to the meet location, we room together, eat together, and of  course race together. Each meet feels like travelling to a different world,
like sleepaway camp almost. We are all able to put our school work and social lives on pause to take advantage of the racing opportunity, support one another, and bond. Some of my greatest memories in life
thus far have come from travel meets. My best friends are like sisters to me!
What is your favorite moment?
My favorite moment in swimming has to be the final night of the Senior Zones Meet in Buffalo of August 2019. After racing for four long days, the meet finally came to an end. All of us girls piled into one room to enjoy
each other’s company with some fast food, ice cream, and a dance party. (All before a 5:30 flight the next morning!) It was a great way to celebrate each other’s success.
What do you plan on doing after graduating?
After graduating I hope to attend college to major in history and swim competitively on the collegiate level.
One tip for someone looking to get into this sport/activity:
Just try it! Swimming can be incredibly daunting, but it has granted me some of the best memories, friends, and lessons. Whether you have experience or not, everyone is welcome in the swimming world. There is a
spot for everyone to succeed.