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Get to know Sequoyah graduate and swimmer Laurel Blase
Courtesy: Tori Blase

Get to know Sequoyah graduate and swimmer Laurel Blase

CANTON, Ga. — Laurel Blase is a 2023 graduate of Sequoyah High School and just last month embarked on her college career at the University of Alabama. She leaves an impressive legacy at her alma mater, including obtaining the most state titles of any athlete at Sequoyah High School – an amazing 5 times GHSA (Georgia High School Association) State Champion.

Laurel’s swimming career began at the age of 5 when she joined the Chattahoochee Gold Swim Club. That following summer, she also joined her neighborhood summer swim team, the Bradshaw Farm Barracudas. Laurel swam both year-round with Chattahoochee Gold and every summer with Bradshaw Farm Barracudas for the following 13 years, as well as served as an assistant coach for the Barracudas. Once in high school, Laurel joined the Sequoyah High School Swim & Dive team. Beginning in June of 2021 ahead of her junior year, recruiting by the University of Alabama and other schools began. Laurel verbally committed to the University of Alabama in October of 2021, signing her letter of intent in November of 2022. Head Coach for Sequoyah Swim & Dive, as well as Bradshaw Farm Barracudas, Cora Hodgins says, “Laurel is an incredible athlete. I am in awe of her success, but not surprised at all. I am looking forward to watching her continue to succeed.”

Laurel with her Silver medal from her 2nd place finish at the USA Swimming Futures Meet in Ocala, Florida. (Courtesy: Tori Blase)

Laurel competed in her last meet with Chattahoochee Gold Swimming in late July in Ocala, Florida, at the USA Swimming Futures Championships where she met her goal of getting an Olympic Trials cut which she accomplished in the 200 backstroke and earns her a spot to swim in the USA Swimming Olympic Time Trials next June 2024! Laurel says, “I looked up to the older swimmers on my team so much when I was younger who were getting Olympic Trials cuts as well as going off to swim in college, and I wanted to be just like them. Getting the Olympic Trials cut right as I head off to swim at Alabama is a dream come true.”

Laurel’s parents, Larry and Tori, along with her sister, Lainey, have continued to be her biggest supporters. Lainey also swims for Sequoyah High School Swim & Dive, Chattahoochee Gold Swimming, and Bradshaw Farm Barracudas. Tori shares, “I am truly amazed at how Laurel is so focused on her studies and swimming. She has both academic and sports scholarships from the University of Alabama due to her time and effort. She has earned that, and we could not be prouder of her. We’ve loved being part of her journey in and out of the pool!” Larry adds, “USA Swimming says that less than 0.5% of swimmers nationwide make it to the US Olympic Swim Trials. I’m so proud that Laurel is in such elite company. I’m also really excited to see her swim in the SEC for Alabama and study in the university’s Honors College.”

Laurel with her parents. (Courtesy: Tori Blase)

When asked what her biggest challenge is, Laurel says it “is to make sure I’m performing as well as I can every single day, and that means making sure I get enough sleep and eat properly all while being a full-time student on top of everything else. Although I can’t have it all, with sleep usually being the aspect that suffers the most, I always try my best to manage my time to the best of my abilities, to make sure that I’m performing well at practice every single day so I can be on track to reach my goals.”

The best advice that Laurel has been given is that even if the work is there, time is a factor in your swimming journey too – basically, good things come to those who wait. She shares, “There have been times where, especially in middle school, I desperately wanted to quit swimming, and I didn’t enjoy coming to practice every day. However, coaches I’ve had over the years have helped me see my own potential, and that hard work over time would lead to the success every swimmer wants from the sport. If I hadn’t ‘waited it out,’ I never would have met some of my best friends, made some of my best memories, and achieved some of my biggest goals – I’m so glad that I did.”

Laurel with Chattahoochee Gold Swimming Head Coach, Mark Schilling. (Courtesy: Tori Blase)

Laurel loves that there is always something new to discover about your personal journey with swimming. The races and strokes that she is good at have changed so much over the years, and she feels like there is always something she can improve on and discover about her swimming. “I also love that swimming is a community – my teammates are my best friends, and you can see with swimmers around the globe that ultimately we all understand the ups and downs of our sport, which is such a special feeling to have,” says Laurel.

Laurel’s pre-race ritual usually consists of visualizing the race that she is about to swim and making sure she goes over her race strategy in her head. She likes to listen to music, but not right before her race when she is behind the blocks. She also stretches a lot before races, both in warmup and behind the blocks. She finds that it also really helps her to do pace in every warmup session of the meet and to go over race strategy with Head Coach at Chattahoochee Gold Swimming, Mark Schilling. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with everything Laurel has achieved in the sport of swimming, culminating in making her first Olympic Trials qualifying time. She owes all of this to her consistent hard work and dedication, and I am proud that Chattahoochee Gold could provide the venue for someone like her to progress to the highest levels of the sport,” says proud coach, Mark.

While swimming is very time consuming, outside of that Laurel likes to hang out with friends and family, crochet, occasionally play video games on her laptop, and binge TV shows. She also volunteers with her dad from time to time at Lost N Found, an Atlanta nonprofit that helps homeless young people.

Laurel with Sequoyah High School Swim & Dive Coach, Cora Hodgins, and sister Lainey after she was presented with her 2022-2023 State Champ ring. (Courtesy: Tori Blase)

When asked what being a member of a team has taught her, Laurel shares, “I am always competing for something bigger than myself, even if I’m in a sport that is defined (mostly) by individual performance. Having a great relationship with your teammates and bringing each other up rather than down makes a tremendous difference in not only how much you enjoy your sport, but usually also pushes you to perform better as well. Swimming has given me some of the best relationships in my life that I will cherish for years to come.”

During her junior year of high school, Laurel hit a rough patch in her swimming after committing to Alabama, and because she was out of shape from recruiting visits (not being able to swim on those trips due to COVID-19). She shares, “My confidence suffered a lot as a result, and I was adding time rather than going new bests like I had my sophomore year. I swam a majority of my races scared and went out too slow most of the time to hit my bests. I had to work hard at overcoming this rough patch and getting my confidence back, and I exceeded even my own expectations of how well I could bounce back from a rough junior year of swimming. Working on my confidence and taking out my races faster and not swimming scared was a slow-going process, but ultimately very worth it and rewarding in my swimming journey.”

Mark once shared this quote with Laurel that has continued to resonate with her, “The greatest athletes work hard even when no one is watching.” She has learned that “it is hard to keep yourself accountable in athletics sometimes, especially when you’re exhausted and nothing is going the way you want it to, even when it feels like you can’t possibly work any harder than you already are. This quote stuck with me because if you want to be great at something, you have to perform to the best of your abilities 100% of the time, even if that performance is worse on some days than it is others.”

This is an unedited user writing submission. The views, information, or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Best Version Media or its employees.

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