Eve Lang | Staff Writer | 04-08-2012
When heart disease got in the way of larger plans for Bemidji State University sophomore Alyssa Stewart, she was disappointed. She lost scholarships, and certainty about where she would attend college was taken away from her. When she recommitted herself to the sport she knew best, however, a new team was introduced to BSU.
Stewart is originally from Williston, N.D. She transferred in this year, and by October, she had put plans in motion to get a swim club started.
Being involved in swimming competitions began at age two for Stewart , and all the way through high school, swimming was an integral part of her life. She was a state champion in 22 different events between her high school league and the USA league. She also made the All-American swimming team during her junior and senior years.
Despite being a dedicated and talented athlete, Stewart isn’t even supposed to swim. She has a heart disease called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) that she’s been dealing with for much of her life. It’s affected her swimming career by causing her to have SVT attacks, which cause her to black out while swimming.
“I was supposed to swim for a couple of big-time colleges,” Stewart said. “But they found out that I have a disability, so they took away my scholarships.”
Many people encouraged Stewart to quit swimming, but she’s had support where it mattered most. Her high school swim coaches, as well as her mom, have backed her decision to persevere through the difficulties of worrying about whether or not she would have an attack during meets. Her high school coach believed in her enough to let her be part of a relay event, and Stewart didn’t let the team down.
After high school, though, Stewart lost some momentum. “I didn’t go in a pool for a year,” she said. Once she got to BSU, however, Stewart lost no time in finding out how she could become part of a swim team again.
A swim team club was always something Stewart was interested in starting, and she thought that maybe there were people in Bemidji who also didn’t get the chance to swim for big time colleges but still wanted to be involved with the sport. Stewart now dedicates between three and four hours each day to swimming. On top of that, she trains with weights every day.
The swim team co-captain, Emily Senta, is incredibly supportive, according to Stewart, and has helped her through the struggles of starting a new team. Stewart hopes that, down the line, the team retains members and will be able to compete against other schools’ swim teams.
Because the school will not be able to offer funding to the swim team, Stewart hopes for support from BSU students when the team puts on fundraisers, like the bake sale they hosted this past January.
“[Swimming] means everything to me,” Stewart said, and this year she’s found a new sense of purpose as well as an outlet in the swim team that she’s created.
“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” Stewart said.
If you’re interested in the BSU Club Swim Team you can find more information on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BemidjiStateUniversityClubSwimteam