BRIDGEWATER, Va. - Rising junior swimmer Olivia Heeb-Wade has already penciled her name into the Bridgewater College record books in the distance events, but she's looking to erase those records with some faster times when the Eagles return to the pool for the 2018-19 season.
This summer Heeb-Wade has trained to improve and get stronger by participating in open water and ocean swim competitions. She has been quite successful at the endeavor, winning each of the three competitions she entered.
In July Heeb-Wade took part in the Luray Open Water competition at Lake Arrowhead and placed first in the 750, 1500 and 2250-meter races for women. She followed that performance by placing first overall (men and women) at the Lake Moomaw 1-mile swim. Heeb-Wade then headed to the ocean and was the first female and the third swimmer overall to finish at the Virginia Beach Lifeguard Association Ocean Swim.
Heeb-Wade notes there is quite a difference when swimming in a pool as opposed to competing in open water events. "Open water swimming is more challenging," said Heeb-Wade. "The number one thing is, you have to fight in open water. You must keep your head up and see where you are going. It's important to stay on course. When you're in the pool, you can just focus on the black line at the bottom in order to know where you are. Another big difference is the ability to draft off other swimmers. In open water you can get really close to the other swimmers. You can't really do that in the pool," she explained.
Swimming in ocean water presents more challenges. "You have to deal with the waves and you have to keep yourself up in the water. The ocean can be pretty rough with the waves crashing into you," said Heeb-Wade.
The Bridgewater swimmer holds program records in the 500, 1000 and 1650-meter freestyle events. She was off to a strong start early in her sophomore campaign before an injury sent her to the sidelines for most of January. Despite the setback, she still managed to score in all three distance events at the ODAC Championships, helping the Eagles to a third-place finish in the team standings.
"I probably lost about 60 percent of my conditioning while being out for a month," Heeb-Wade said. "By the time I got to ODACs, I really didn't see a big difference in my sprints, but in the distance events, when I hit the 500-meter mark my endurance wasn't quite there."
While the physical obstacles of missing a month of training were tough to overcome, the mental aspect of dealing with the injury and missing time in the pool was just as tough or tougher.
"I was swimming so well in December so it was really frustrating when I couldn't swim in January. It was difficult mentally not being able to compete and be there with my team," she said.
Training in the open water this summer has Heeb-Wade back on track, both mentally and physically. "This summer definitely helped," she said. "The open water swims kept me excited and seeing my progress and performance in the competitions was very rewarding. Swimming in the open water kept me on track with my training and it's helped me get back to where I was before the injury."
Looking ahead to the upcoming season, Heeb-Wade is ready to take aim at her records. "My goal is to swim my lifetime best times by the time we get to the Yellow Jacket Invitational in late November," she said. "Overall, I just want to work to be a better student-athlete by training hard, competing hard and staying healthy while also keeping up with my academics."