From Italy to being tops in the poolPark City senior Tomlin returns from year abroad to lead swim team
As one of state’s top swimmers, Park City High School student Stephanie Tomlin has traveled a lot of miles in the pool.
But the senior’s most interesting travels took place on land. Last year, as part of the School Year Abroad program, Tomlin spent nine months in Italy living and attending school.
Tomlin first learned of the program when her Spanish teacher encouraged her to pursue a year abroad in Spain. When Tomlin heard that the program was also in Italy, she began to consider the possibility.
She printed off an application from the Internet, filled it out and sent it in. Unfortunately her parents were not on board with the idea. Only after a business trip to Rome for both of them did they relent and allow her to go.
Then came the task of breaking the news to Park City’s head swim coach Matt Hayes. Originally, he had encouraged Tomlin to go, but when it was official the thought of losing his best swimmer became a reality.
"When I came back later and told him, he was like, ‘go do that, but it will be a big adjustment for us,’" Tomlin said.
And an even bigger adjustment for Tomlin. While she was overseas, life was very different. She lived with a large family, the Cannaos, with three older "siblings" and two parents. The extended Cannao family all lived right next store. She attended an American high school with 65 other students, many of whom came from prestigious college prep schools back east, which made her classes very challenging. She had to be driven about in the family car or rely on the Italian bus system, and dinner was served at 9 p.m. nightly. But, her biggest accomplishment was learning Italian. Tomlin knew none of the language except "ciao" and "merci" when she left, but she soon immersed herself in the language so she could converse freely with her new family.
And soon, Tomlin learned to embrace her Italian experience.
"You realize that this is life," Tomlin said. "It was ‘carpe diem’ everyday."
She says the best part was the laid-back nature of the Italians. She spent a lot of quality time just enjoying the Cannaos.
"My family was what made my trip," Tomlin said. "It was the best year of my life."
Every Sunday, the family would gather for a large Italian feast that Tomlin looked forward to each week.
She was also able to travel all over the country. She saw Sicily, Naples and even attended the Olympics in Turin and Carnival in Venice.
The only drawback was swimming. In order to practice, Tomlin would travel from her home in Veterbo to another city, Cervetti, three times a week. The time it took to get there equaled the time she spent in the pool. She had only five other teammates and a coach that had difficulty communicating with her and another swimmer from the American school.
"That was one of my biggest challenges," Tomlin said.
She did her best to stay in contact with her Park City teammates, but she often felt bad that she couldn’t contribute as they headed to the region and state championships.
"I wanted to be there for my team. That was the hardest thing to not swim with my team," Tomlin said.
Tomlin’s mother, Leslie, did her best to keep her daughter abreast of the Miners’ accomplishments, sending her newspaper articles about each meet. Tomlin said it helped a lot to know how all of her friends were performing.
Since returning it has been all-pool, all-the-time for Tomlin. Over the summer, she practically lived in the water trying to get in shape for her senior season. It was a physical challenge to get herself back to the place she was before she left.
These days, she swims every day with two workouts per day every other day a stark contrast from the three workouts a week in Italy. Luckily, her relationship with the team has not changed. They welcomed her back and soon nominated her as team captain.
Once the season got underway, she proved that nothing had changed in the pool, either. With just a few weeks under her belt she is already dominating in state prep competition. At Tuesday’s meet with 5A Alta, Tomlin won the 100-yard butterfly — just seconds off of her personal best, she also walked away with first in the 200-yard freestyle and swam on the winning medley and 400-meter relay teams.
With this being her last year, Tomlin says that swimming her best and being a good team leader are very important to her.
"This is my last opportunity," Tomlin said. "I have goals of beating school records."
But she welcomes the challenge. She says the added pressure is exactly what she needs to break those records. She also said that Hayes has been helping her do everything necessary to keep improving her times as the season goes on. For Hayes, he feels it is the least he can do for such a big contributor to his team.
"She makes a tremendous impact on the team," Hayes said. "She is one of those leaders you hope you get on the team sometime. She has everything that you want."
Tomlin is also impressed with how well her team has been doing thus far. She says that the added depth of some of the strong younger swimmers combined with the top upperclassmen should put a scare in the likes of powerhouses like Judge and Logan. As a team leader, she has also taken note of the work ethic and positive attitude the team brings to the pool every day.
"When they are enthusiastic, it helps me," Tomlin said.
If Tomlin keeps her success rate up, she may just help herself to state title in numerous races. She’s learned it just takes a little Carpe Diem, or cogli l’attimo seizing the moment.
Against Alta, Park City lost 180-159. The girls were second with a score of 78to Alta’s 91 points. The boys were also second 102-68.
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