Swimmers travel to Budapest to race in international meet


Madison Nguyen , Copy Editor

During the first week of October, seniors Ashley Stahmer, Sarah Snyder, Milan Hilde-Jones and junior Shogo Moridaira traveled to Budapest, Hungary with their club, Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA), to compete against other world-class swimmers.

While the swimmers have competed against Olympians before, Budapest was their first time traveling outside of the country to compete. “I was really excited when I first got [to Budapest],” Stahmer said. “It was a little stressful while traveling, but everything else was great.” According to Stahmer, PASA was not the only club team to go. Another team from California with swimmers of aged 14 to 18 year old also competed; however, other countries mainly had their national team representing them.

There were many unwritten rules at the meet that were unknown to the Gunn swimmers due to the discrepancies between high school swim meets and international meets. “This one time, [Snyder] got yelled at [for not following the rule] where after your race, you have to get onto the lane line or else they won’t start the next heat,” Hilde-Jones said. “You also can’t get out from your lane; you have to cross the pool to get out on the sides and exit in a specific order. You can’t get into the pool without your credentials, which has a picture, but you weren’t allowed to smile in it. They regulate everything very strictly.” Ten minutes before each race, swimmers had to arrive at the “ready room,” where they would stretch and prepare themselves. If they weren’t there in time, they wouldn’t be allowed to race.

For Hilde-Jones, this meet was a great experience. “We got to race some really high-level swimmers and it was a really incredible thing to do, especially at the level we’re at right now. We’re in high school, [and] we usually don’t get these opportunities until we’re in college,” she said. At the meet, she swam the 50-meter backstroke, 50-meter free- style, 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter backstroke and 200-meter freestyle.

Competing against elite swimmers was very unlike racing against teenaged swimmers. Snyder had a difficult time because of her recent ankle injury. “[The meet] was all right. I didn’t do great. I sprained my ankle about a week before, so it hurt a lot while I was swimming, but I got through it,” she said. “It was my first time swimming short-course meters, so I got all best times.”It wasn’t just the competition that was difficult, though. According to Snyder, the time difference was also hard to adjust to, and communicating with locals who didn’t speak English was another challenge.

In domestic swim season competitions, swimmers will either compete in short-course yards or long-course meters. Because the Budapest meet was in short-course meters, the times don’t count for qualifications in America. The main goal of these swimmers was to do their best and take what they learned back to the pool at home. To their surprise, however, many of them did beat other opponents, which was definitely a highlight for them.

This meet inspired the swimmers, reminding them of why they started swimming in the first place. Moridaira, who moved to Palo Alto from Japan last summer, was reminded of his previous trainings. “Almost every Japanese swimmer is small, so we have to work hard on technique and other things,” he said. “So it was really good that [this meet reminded me to keep working hard].”

Following this experience, the swimmers look to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level. Stahmer recently committed to the University of South Carolina, Snyder will be swimming for Duke University and Hilde-Jones has committed to swim at Northwestern University.