Sydney VanLente strives for greatness as a swim team captain

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Sydney VanLente

Senior Sydney VanLente is a captain of the FHC girl’s swim and dive team.

The smell of chlorine lingered as cheers roared; comradery hung in the air. Two years later, the memory is still fresh in senior Sydney VanLente’s mind. 

“It was probably my sophomore year,” Sydney explained. “It was a relay meet we had—it was a really close meet. We had won the meet for the past three years, and it came down to the last race. We didn’t want to lose our streak. The energy on deck was amazing, and the team was really close watching the one relay. We were all at the end of the lane cheering. We ended up winning, [and] everyone cheered.” 

Memories like these inspire Sydney in her swimming career. As a competitive swimmer from the age of five years old, she has years of experience under her belt—years of invigorating wins. 

Now in her fourth year on FHC’s swim and dive team, Sydney has stepped into a new position. Alongside seniors Annie Douma and Payton Dailey, Sydney is filling the role of FHC girls’ swim and dive captain and is thrilled with the opportunity.

“I enjoy being a captain because I feel like the underclassmen look up to me for advice,” Sydney said. “It’s definitely a leadership role, and I’ve always felt like a leader by helping people and showing them how to do something. I think it gives the girls on the team someone that they can talk to or someone they can trust to go to if they’re having an issue on the team. They can also give me suggestions of something fun that they want to do [as a team].”

I enjoy being a captain because I feel like the underclassmen look up to me for advice.”

— Sydney VanLente

Part of Sydney’s job as a captain is to encourage team bonding. She and her fellow captains find ways to do this away from the pool.

Some of their ideas are traditions from years past while others are entirely new. Due to the time of the year for the swim team’s season, Sydney is able to take advantage of fall-related activities.

“We have planned a little Halloween party, and we always go to The Haunt,” Sydney said. “We paint pumpkins in October. We do a cottage weekend before the season starts where we all get together and go to a lake house to go boating and tubing. We do this thing called ‘Secret Sister.’ At every home meet, we get a person a gift anonymously, and then at the end of the season, at conferences, we do a reveal with a bigger gift.”

Spending loads of time with her team is inevitable for Sydney. With the long hours going into practices and meets, it is expected that they could easily get sick of each other. 

Rather than playing into this stereotype, the hours in the pool, and the additional team bonding times, make Sydney and her team enjoy each others’ company more.

“We spend a lot of time together, with just the girls on the team,” Sydney said. “We get really close. Seeing them around school, we’re always like ‘Oh, hey, good to see you. See you later.’ We spend probably over 20 hours together a week, and even outside of swim, we hang out. It’s nice to have everyone. We all go through the same thing, so when the season gets really long and we’re all really tired, we go through it together. It’s nice to have a community around us.”

Getting close to her teammates is not a new thing for Sydney. Throughout her whole high school swimming career, becoming a family as a team has been inevitable. This community is largely due to the inviting nature of current and past teammates.

Sydney uses the inspiration of former, graduated teammates to ensure her success as a captain. Ultimately, she hopes to be the upperclassman that they were to her. 

“My freshman year, [alumna] Rachel Douma was really someone I could go and talk to,” Sydney said. “I felt like I could be really good friends with her, and we clicked. Now her younger sister [senior] Annie Douma is also one of my best friends and a captain as well. In my sophomore year, there were Olivia Hooper and Emily Johnson. They were always so fun to be around. They brought an energy to the team that was amazing, and I felt like I could be friends with them too. They were people who I could trust.”