Lake Norman & Mooresville

Swimming makes this athlete mentally tougher

Morgan Yaguda is a pure swimmer. Unlike some athletes, the Pine Lake Prep senior has no interest in any other sport. Since she began competing with the Highland Creek Hurricanes when she was 8 years old, she's had one focus.

"It's swim or nothing," said Yaguda.

She's the only year-round swimmer on the Pride's second-year squad. Her dedication to the sport is immediately evident; she swims six days a week for three hours each day, not including meets. She takes two weeks off from swimming during the summer, at which time her family takes their vacation.

Even as a team sport, swimming is a solitary thing for each athlete, but Yaguda finds peace below the surface.

"Swimming is one of the only sports where you can't talk to your teammates" while competing, said Yaguda. "It makes you mentally tougher. When you are in the water, you just forget everything else - you get into a zone."

And while she accepts being an individual in the water, she is all about the team on land.

"She's a good leader," said head coach Kristin Marsh. "She helps a lot with the less-experienced swimmers. She swims with us on her off nights from swimming with SwimMAC. She has practice in the mornings on Friday, but then comes to Davidson for our practice Friday night to help out. It's nice to have someone like Morgan."

Pine Lake Prep's inaugural season with a swim team was last year, so a lot of its swimmers are first-timers to the sport. Marsh is building her program from the ground up, and Yaguda has been more than just a teammate to many of the swimmers; she's been an inspiration.

Yaguda doesn't swim for individual accolades, though she loves to win. She said she's more interested in making a name for Pine Lake, which makes last season an extremely special one for her.

"It was a great experience," the Huntersville resident said. "It was our first year swimming and we got Pine Lake in the news."

Yaguda and three teammates - Kimberly Abrams, Derricka Long and Jesse Holder - qualified for states in the 200-yard freestyle relay. They finished 12th of 30 teams that qualified.

Yaguda also qualified and finished sixth in the women's 200 freestyle and eighth in the 500 freestyle.

"I didn't really think about setting the bar high, I just wanted to get people into swimming and make the state cut," said Yaguda.

Swimming, a non-revenue sport, doesn't always get the recognition other sports do, but these swimmers were the pride of Pine Lake. Yaguda and her teammates were featured on the school's website and talked about around campus. This year when the season began, Marsh had more swimmers join the team.

Yaguda is also the first recruited athlete in Pine Lake Prep history. She signed to swim with College of Charleston on Nov. 30.

"Pine Lake is known for their challenging academics - people don't look at our teams that much," said Yaguda. "It's really nice to get people excited about our athletics."

Despite securing her spot in college, Yaguda still has some business to finish at Pine Lake. Already, she and Holder have qualified for the regionals in their first meet of the season.

"They had the same times as the last meet from last year, so that's great," said Marsh.

"I'm excited to see more speed from (Yaguda). She definitely excels at the distances, but I'm starting to see more speed."

Yaguda has time standards she wants to reach. Though the automatic qualifying standard in the 500 in 1A/2A is 6:30:99, Yaguda wants to secure a 5:15. In the 200 she wants to get back to 2:05, while qualifying is only 2:41:99, and she wants to improve her mile time to 18:20 for college.

"I hope to leave Pine Lake with more people on the swim team, and excited about swimming," she said.