Sometimes for an athlete, doors open fortuitously that may not have otherwise been expected. Such is the case for swimmer Michelle Shen, who got into the sport to help her with her studies after moving to West Roxbury to attend the Boston Latin School. The result? Shen is one of the neighborhood's finest swimmers.
Shen competed in the Bay State Games last summer as a 13-year-old and is bound for the games again later this month. Last year, she set a personal record with a 1:16 time in the 100-meter butterfly, and, having just completed her eighth-grade year, she's looking to finish even better this summer.
Michelle, how did you get into swimming originally? Why have you continued to pursue it?
Shen: Originally, it was my parents who signed me up for swimming because I [am diagnosed with] ADHD, swimming helps me burn off energy so I can focus more in school. I continued because I actually enjoy swimming. Also because it has taught me a lot about staying mentally tough.
Tell us about the experience of swimming in the Bay State Games last summer.
Shen: The Bay State Games was my first long course meet (meaning it was in a 50-meter pool instead of a 25-yard pool) and it made me very nervous. When I made it to the finals cut for my 100-meter butterfly I was terrified. Swimming it in the semifinals had completely demolished me and the thought of swimming it again made me sick. But after swimming it a second time, in the finals, I ended up dropping a second from 1:17 to 1:16.
What kind of goals do you have set for the summer?
Shen: There are a lot of big competitions this season: Age Group competitions, Regionals, and Bay States. I have a goal
to meet for the end of the summer though and that's to get 1:09 for my 100-meter fly. My goal for everything else is just to drop time.
You moved to Boston in order to attend BLS. Why was attending the school of such priority to you and your family?
Shen: School is the highest priority in my family and we heard that Boston Latin School was the best high school in Massachusetts. My parents always say that studies are before swimming.
What are the benefits of swimming on a team rather than independently?
Shen: Well, I've always swum on a team. I feel that it would be better that way because then you have teammates to drive you harder during practice and to cheer you on during meets. On a team, you also have a coach to support you and keep you going.
Editor's Note: After the publication of this article, Shen contacted Patch to let them know that she would no longer be swimming in the Bay State Games, and that she would be focusing instead on Regionals.
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