Former Hawk dives into opportunities, travels across country for experiences

Bethany Wright still holds many of our schools swim team records. These records were just a start to the ones she would set on the National Swim Team.

Emily Lampieri

Bethany Wright still holds many of our schools swim team records. These records were just a start to the ones she would set on the National Swim Team.

Jessica Fannin, Reporter

Bethany Wright, a former student at North Harford, left high school on a mission to make something of herself. She explained how coming from the small town of Jarrettsville she knew “there was more out there, something bigger and […] [she] wanted to experience it all.” So, she did just that, reaching out to the colleges that she wanted to attend and writing about herself, her swimming, and her training regimen.
Her, “first stop was UCLA.” Wright will, “never forget the feeling of stepping off the plane and driving onto the UCLA campus. The coach picked […] [her] up in a convertible, it was 80 degrees outside, and […] [she] could see snow on the mountains.” The alumni “had died and gone to heaven.”
The 1997 graduate decided to go all the way to California for college because “UCLA had the perfect mix of academics and athletics.” Wright’s parents made it clear that she, ” had to go to college.”
“Being slightly rebellious at the time,” she said, “Ok then, I will go as far away from here as possible.”

Honestly speaking Wright was, “homesick the first month at UCLA.” Despite wanting to go home her mom told her, “to give it a year,” before they seriously talked about that. They, “never had to have that talk because […] [she] got into a groove and never looked back.”
Across the country, on a different team Wright said her “first day of practice at UCLA was dramatically different,” from her previous swim team experience at North Harford or YMCA.
Wright confessed that she “did horribly,” during their “3 ½ hours of swim and 5-mile run.” After a hard talk with her new coach about why she was performing so poorly, the aspiring swimmer decided she was going to give, “110% every practice.”
Wright said she, “dropped about 4 seconds freshmen year, received the most improved award, and made the NCAA’s. She “was the only freshmen and 1 of 8 on the team to do so. Hard work does pay off!” Wright added.

After graduating from UCLA, the swimmer tried out for the National Swim team. She, “packed up the car right after graduation to move to Irvine to swim for a team called Nova, where […] [she] would be coached by the best Olympic coach.”
Stepping into the unknown, Wright said she moved to Irvine without planning where she would stay beforehand. She shared that “I had to call friends who I knew lived there for a place to sleep.” Things did not go as planned for her dad, who was traveling to California to help her move. “His truck broke down in Nevada and he had to buy a new one to make it the rest of the way,” the swimmer recalls.

Wright explained that to be selected for the US National Team, “you have to be one of the top six competitors in the United States for your particular event.” After getting settled in her new home she was determined to be “one of the top six competitors,” for her stroke, the butterfly.
At “the peak of [her] training heading into the 2004 Olympic Trials, a typical day would look like this: Bike 10 miles to practice, swim for 1 ½ hours, 1 hour of weightlifting, a bike ride home, eat 1,800 calories, sleep for 1-2 hours, swim 2 hours, do 1 hour of stretch cords and abdominal work, and then run 3 miles.”

For Wright, being on the National team was one of her “greatest honors,” and it meant she was “representing the United States. Instead of a UCLA swim cap,” she had a USA swim cap. A couple of times a year she would have to go to the, “Olympic Training facility in Colorado or San Diego.” At the facility, they controlled everything the swimmers did. They “ate there, slept there, and trained there. The coaches, “would work with you one-on-one and dissect each part of your stroke.”
On the National Swim Team the, “teammates were from all around the country. […] You were the best of the best. There was no rivalry, just support, and comradery.” Through the swim team, she was able to travel the world.

During Wright’s “first international trip to China,” she remembers experiencing “a bit of a culture shock. There were guards in the airport with guns and the food was different from American Chinese food.” The country’s ancient monuments were what inspired her to “really get into world history.”
Along with her “eye-opening,” travels, Wright was focused on her swimming career and was able to win “a gold medal setting a World University Games record in the 50-meter butterfly, where over 80 countries participated.” She achieved her fastest time for the “50 long-course meter butterfly [at] 27.18 seconds, in Beijing, China, 2001.” Another achievement was the “100 long-course meter butterfly [which she swam in] 59.97 seconds in the Dominican Republic, 2003.”

Wright recalled, “the funniest thing about the fastest time [she] ever swam was that nothing went right that day.” As she “stood on the block lightning struck,” and they had to go inside. After “about 30 minutes,” they called the swimmers back to the blocks. Wright’s start off the block “was horrible, “and she, “did not get a good push off the wall. The only thing that saved,” her was the fact, “that none of that mattered.”
“The race wasn’t over,” for the swimmer. Wright just needed to put her head down, swim the best she could. “Time seemed to go by slowly in that race,” Wright exclaimed. She touched the wall with all the energy left in her. After looking up, Wright saw that she had won. The greatest lesson she learned in that race was, “that it isn’t over until it is over!”

The aspiring Olympian sadly “missed making the Olympic Team in 2000 and 2004.” This is because, “the US only takes the top two US swimmers in each event.” At the peak of her career, she was in 7th place in the world. After missing the team in 2004, Wright walked away from the pool knowing there was nothing more she could do. She was, “ready to move on and get a steady paycheck.”
Along her journey, Wright made a friend named, “Staciana Stitts, [who] has a condition called Alopecia that causes her hair to fall out.” Seeing her embrace herself and have a positive attitude helped Wright to, “push through any tough times faced.”
Still looking for a “good challenge,” after the Olympic Trials, Wright “worked in equipment financing,” which includes lending money to businesses to help them buy their equipment and then she worked “in the Mortgage industry.” Even though Wright eventually went through the recession and lost her job she said it allowed her, “to start all over.”
With her new job in “scheduling gas, jet, and diesel fuel out of a refinery,” she “built a good reputation in the industry and was approached by a crude oil producer who promised a stable job with good upward mobility.” Over the years she worked her way up into Crude Oil Trading.
Wright clarified her, “role within the California Resources Corporation is to sell crude oil production across all of California. The company is extremely environmentally conscious and sets the Gold Standard for the state.”
The National swimmer concluded with the fact that her story is unique to her, but the underlying theme is the same. She, “sees […] [herself] in each one of the students at NHHS.” She has, “been in their shoes.” She also advised, “have fun, stay out of trouble, study hard, and never give up on whatever it is you want to do, whatever that may be. You have your whole lives ahead of you. Take a chance on pursuing your dreams, even if it means hopping on a plane and traveling alone across the country. Your adventure awaits!”