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Adrienne Bilello - Blazing Her Own Trail

I wanted to share this story with everyone on the team.  There will be some more information coming in the near future about this young lady and her experience, but this is from my perspective… I hope you enjoy it and can share it with your kids.  I think there is a very important and special message that I hope I am able to express through this dedicated athlete’s performance and my experience coaching her…

After returning from Bucknell (our shave meet for the summer) the platinum swimmers spent the next 2 weeks focusing on some very sprint based training in preparation for the upcoming league championship meets.  However, there was one swimmer in the group who had a different path to follow.  Adrienne Bilello was set to compete in the third and final open water race in the 1st annual Jersey Shore Open Water Challenge.   This race was to be held the same weekend as Tri-County and was the culmination of a series of races that started back on June 28th.   This challenge required swimmers to participate in three separate 2K races and the swimmer with the lowest total average would be crowned the winner.

So for the 2 weeks after Bucknell leading into tri-county, the platinum kids would get their main set… 25s, sprints in the diving well… and Adrienne would go into lane 6 – by herself – to do repeat 400s…or descending 200s.  For two weeks she completed these sets on her own.  Each day I would ask her, “do you want to do the main set or something else?”  Each day she would respond “something else” and all I could do was smile.  It became common place to hear her teammates all yelling "Adrienne" like Rocky Balboa as she moved into the end lane to start her own personal workout.  Unfortunately, in what was just another test of Adrienne’s resilience, the final race was postponed as a result of the poor weather that first weekend in August.  Adrienne came to Tri-county to cheer on her friends knowing that she would have to wait another week for her chance to race. 

Following Tri-county our group basically takes a “hiatus.”  August practices are not required and are only 3 days a week.  We spend time doing lots of drills and more relaxed swimming.  True to her nature however, Adrienne was not quite ready for that yet.  Adrienne spent another 3 days in lane 6, alone, training for her race.  I can only imagine that Adrienne will be the first one to tell you that it’s not that much fun swimming a set with your coach literally taking splits on every 50 and telling you to go faster…or slow down.  There is no chance to stop, no chance that maybe he won’t see my time on this one…It’s just you and him devil 

Adrienne finally got her chance to race on Saturday (August 9) and put on another phenomenal performance.  She was the first female out of the water by almost 2 minutes and secured herself a 1st place finish in the Open Water Challenge series.  However, what is most impressive to me is not that Adrienne won the race…or the challenge.  It was in how she got there.  She decided to take a different path.  While everyone else was competing in a nice crystal clear pool this summer, Adrienne was racing in bays and the Atlantic Ocean.   She didn’t have any friends cheering her on by the side of the pool…she didn’t have any coaches giving her pep-talks before her swims…or teammates behind the blocks with her.  It was just her and the open water.   If you don’t know Adrienne she is not the biggest girl on the team smiley...But what she lacks in size she makes up for with an unending amount of will.  If you think swimming a 500 is rough.  Imagine swimming a mile…now imagine swimming that mile in the ocean where you can’t see anything unless you pick your head up to look in front of you.  There is no wall….no lanelines…no one there to cheer you on.  It’s just you and your thoughts for 26 minutes. 

I couldn’t be more proud of Adrienne’s courage and determination this summer.  She is a shining example that sometimes you have to take a risk and step out of the normal routine to find something you really love.   It is a lesson that every single person who reads this can learn from.  We all fall into our comfort zones and like to stick to things we know.  But unless we dare ourselves to accept new challenges, we may be denying ourselves some of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of our lives.  It is very cliché’ …but it fits too well not to end with a quote from Robert Frost…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

Congratulations Adrienne !!  The SJAC Family could not be prouder of you!!