Leaving behind a legacy: junior swimmer’s passion

Junior Claudia Yovanovich makes her way to state through hard work and dedication


Emma Steinburg

Junior Claudia Yovanovich reflects on her hard work as she raises her medal at the state championship this fall for finishing third in both events, the 100-yard backstroke and the 50-yard freestyle.

Sabi Yoon, Cub Reporter

Behind the starting blocks, junior Claudia Yovanovich hears the boisterous crowd. The pressure in the aquatic center is as intense as an autoclave. Her heart is pounding so hard, it eventually mutes the clamor of the crowd. 

This is not an ordinary swim meet. It’s the WIAA State Championships where the top high school swimmers across the state compete.

For Yovanovich, the small rifts in the pool actually calm her nerves. It’s something she knows very well after tirelessly training for this moment. It’s her comfort zone. It’s her world.

While most students are still asleep, Yovanovich is out the door by 4:50 a.m. trekking across the I-90 bridge to Mercer Island to train before school. When students call it a day at 3:45 p.m., Yovanovich is heading to her second practice session of the day to train yet again. This is her daily regimen. She breathes and eats swimming.

There were high expectations to perform at this year’s state championship after placing second and fourth for the 50 and 100-yard freestyle, respectively, as a budding sophomore last year – a rare achievement for an underclassman in any competitive sport at the high school level.

Despite all her accomplishments, Yovanovich believes that she wasn’t a natural swimmer at first but developed this ability through sacrifice and hard work over the years.

“At first, I wasn’t a natural swimmer, but over the years, as I practiced a lot, I eventually got there,” Yovanovich said.

The student athlete started swimming when she was 5 years old but became more serious about the sport in middle school when she made her first Futures Cut – a sectional swim meet before Junior Nationals. This achievement inspired her to train harder and take the aquatic sport more seriously.

“I started getting really good at sprint freestyle and I got my first ‘future cut’ in the 50-yard freestyle when I was 13 years old,” Yovanovich said.

In order to achieve greater success in swimming, she had to commit herself fully and go all in. She abandoned all other sports – such as gymnastics – to pursue her passion. She simultaneously represents both the Seattle Metropolitan Aquatic Club (SMAC) and the Ballard High School girls swim team during the fall sports season.

At first, I wasn’t a natural swimmer, but over the years, as I practiced a lot, I eventually got there.

— junior Claudia Yovanovich, who has received a swim scholarship from UCLA

Juggling academics and being one of the top high school swimmers in Washington State has a steep price though: Sacrificing her social life. Her intense training schedule, participating in swim meets and attending college recruiting trips has not afforded her much extra time to hang out with her friends.

“I definitely don’t hang out with friends a lot. I’ve tried to a little bit more this year, but I just don’t have a lot of free social time,” Yovanovich said. “I really want to swim D1 and at UCLA.” 

However, the fruits of Yovanovich’s labor and the personal sacrifices she has made over the years have finally paid off. She was recently offered a swim scholarship to UCLA, a Division I school and one of the top women’s swim programs within the Pac-12 collegiate conference. This was her dream school and she was able to realize her goals through hard work.

Fellow swim teammate from BHS, freshman Arlo Sanchez Aguirre, shares their feelings on Yovanovich’s future. 

“I hope Claudia does well next year … I know she works hard and I hope it all pays off in the end. It’s not easy to place [in the] top three two years in a row. I’m so happy that she represents Ballard High School,” Sanchez Aguirre said.

It’s rare to consistently succeed at the state championship level in any competitive high school sport and yet, Claudia still has one more season to accomplish even more milestones.

With so many swimming accolades under her belt already, Yovanovich is already well on her way to achieving her collegiate goals. She will get to top off her long list of accomplishments in fashion at the WIAA State Championship one last time as a senior next fall, solidifying her legacy at BHS.