Lindsay Bosek, 16, has spent most of the last decade in the pool.
So when she was diagnosed with mononucleosis Dec. 23, the Charlotte Latin junior had to figure out how to live without swimming for almost two months.
"Swimming has been a major part of my life ever since I can remember," said Bosek, who started swimming at age 7 in the Ballantyne Country Club summer league. "The pool is like a second home to me. I spend a lot of time there, so to be without it for that long was tough."
But after missing most of the season for Charlotte Latin because her spleen had enlarged as a result of her illness, Bosek finally was cleared to swim Feb. 5.
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The two-time defending CISAA and state champion in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle was back in the pool bright and early the next morning.
"I thought it was going to be like a Hollywood thing, and I would jump back into the pool and be back to normal," Bosek said. "But it's not that way. I am going to have to work my way back to where I was before.
"But I am determined to get back and be better than ever."
Bosek's first true test was at the CISAA conference meet last Thursday, where she just missed another conference title after being outreached in the 50 freestyle to finish second. It was the first individual race she has lost during her high school career.
Bosek's focus is to be back in the best possible form to defend her 50- and 100-yard freestyle crowns and help the Charlotte Latin girls to a NCISAA 3A team title Monday at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary.
Bosek has proven she is one of the state's fastest swimmers: Her best time in the 50 freestyle is 24.08 seconds, and her 100 freestyle best is 53.00.
Bosek said she believes being a sprinter rather than a longer distance swimmer will help her get back into form faster.
"I love being a sprinter because it is all about speed," said Bosek, who also will compete in at least two relays for the Hawks. "I'm 5-foot-10, which gives me an advantage over most girls. But I can't pace myself. I just like going as fast as I possibly can."
Bosek developed a lot of her speed and talent as a year-round swimmer for SwimMAC, where she trains with most of the best swimmers in the Charlotte area. Bosek usually spends at least four hours a day practicing, five to six days a week.
Bosek attributes a lot of her success to her coaches at SwimMAC and friends like Providence High's Kyle and Kip Darmody and her own teammate Collin Higgins.
"Being able to practice and compete with the best swimmers in Charlotte helps a lot," said Charlotte Latin swim coach Patty Waldron, who also has been a coach with SwimMAC for 28 years. "I think, like a lot of our kids, it has brought the best out in Lindsay. (SwimMAC) will definitely help her recover faster."
While Bosek looks to round into form for this season and next year, she also is looking at the big picture, in which she hopes to be a college swimmer. Her main interests right now include Auburn, College of Charleston, South Carolina and Radford, but her list could grow as the recruiting process intensifies.
While her future is bright, Bosek says living without swimming has taught her a valuable lesson.
"At first, when I got sick, it was kind of fun to be a normal teenager and do normal things with friends - not be at the pool all the time," said Bosek. "But after about two weeks that got old. I realized that swimming is what I love to do.
"I think losing it for a while just made me love it even more."