By LORI WILLIAMS
Express Staff Correspondent
If you've followed SV5B swimming over the years, you might be wondering -- where in the world is Michele Lowry?
Well, after eight years of training with Coach Brian Gallagher and SV5B, the eighteen-year old powerhouse swimmer and record-holder left town last June bound for The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida, a private college prep academy which just happens to have one of the best swimming programs in the nation.
Never one to sit back and let fate take its course, Lowry dove headfirst into her future. In 2001, as a freshman, she had the opportunity to train with the Las Vegas and Boulder City, Nevada, swim teams. When that arrangement failed, she returned home and began surfing the web looking for schools with premier swimming programs to help propel her into the competitive national arena.
She located The Bolles School and applied during her junior year, but was unable to go because her credits wouldn't transfer halfway through the year. Applying again for her senior year, she flew to Florida, interviewed with admissions, was told she was academically and athletically perfect for the school, and left for summer training this past June. She began her senior year at Bolles in August.
Bolles was founded in 1933 as an all-boys military school. In 1961, the school dropped its military status and in 1971, it began admitting girls. Today, Bolles is recognized as one of the finest college preparatory institutions in the nation, with its students continuously recognized for an abundance of academic and athletic awards and scholarships.
Over the years, it has produced a long list of national champion and Olympic swimmers. They sent numerous former students to the Olympic trials, with five actually competing in Athens. The Bolles Sharks girls swim team has won fourteen consecutive state titles, while the boys have won seventeen.
Lowry says the entire population of Snake River Swimming barely compares to the size of some of the larger teams in Florida, where the swimming programs are some of the most competitive in the country. The workout regime is certainly heftier.
A typical week's workout begins with swimming morning and evenings Monday, Wednesday and Friday, averaging about 14-16,000 meters per day. Tuesdays and Thursdays the team swims only in the afternoon, between 7,000 and 7,500 meters. They do weights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with stationary balls and medicine balls on Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday morning practices are three hours, beginning with a long run before hitting the pool. Sundays are free days to catch up on laundry and homework.
Michele is part of the Elite 1 training group, which requires the swimmer to have met at least two Junior National time standards. She is pleased with her success thus far, having dropped a second and a half in her 100 back, and three and a half seconds in the 200 IM. Currently she is ranked in the top 15 for 17-18 girls in Florida in five events. She finished 7th in the 100 back, and 9th in the 200 IM at state.
Further honors include Lowry making the First Coast All-Conference 2nd team in the 100 Back and 200 IM, being selected as an All-American Consideration in the 100 Back, qualifying for competition in Southern Sectionals in Orlando this month, and being invited to the Janet Evans Invitational in Los Angeles in July.
She says she has made major leaps towards achieving her ultimate goal before graduation -- qualifying for Senior Nationals.
Michele also maintains a 3.69 GPA and her class load this second and last semester includes English IV, Statistics: Data Analysis, Economics, AP Modern European History, and News writing.
Lowry has been swimming competitively for thirteen years, and credits much of her success to her eight years under Gallagher's coaching.
"I will always consider him my coach and second father," she says.
"I would not be where I am today without his guidance and expertise in every aspect of the sport, both mentally and physically."
She says there have been many times over the years where she had to choose between just being a normal teenager and going the distance with swimming. But no matter what happens with college swimming, she explains the sacrifices will all be worth it.
"The sport has taught me control and discipline, and with every best time and every gold medal I've won, it makes me realize that I did it for my future and would never take it back."
As for college looming on the horizon, Lowry has taken recruiting trips to the University of New Mexico, Northeastern, and the University of Denver, and all three have offered between a 75 and 100 percent scholarship.
She says the Denver coach flew to Florida in December to observe her in practice. In the end Lowry has decided to sign with the University of Denver, and accept their offer for an 85 percent scholarship her freshman year, with a full ride for her sophomore, junior and senior years.
At the collegiate level, Lowry says she will be focusing on the 100 and 200 back, the 200 and 400 IM, and maybe a little freestyle if she's lucky. She wants to qualify for NCAA and lead Denver as their breakout backstroker as a freshman.
At this point in her career, luck and fate probably don't have much to say about it. Be watching for where in the world Michele Lowry is going to be.