Girls State Swimming: Smolka suits up for Oak Lawn
By Tim O’Brien November 17, 2012 10:02PM
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:36PM
Oak Lawn swimmer Samantha Smolka has competed at the Paralympics and is no stranger to competing in tense, pressure-filled situations.
For Smolka, though, competing at the IHSA meet in two students with disabilities races Saturday with Oak Lawn school colors was something special.
“I was really excited when I found out I could swim at the state meet,” Smolka said. “With the times, I wouldn’t have been able to swim at state with my vision and everything. It felt really cool being able to swim at state.”
A swimmer since she was four years old, Smolka is legally blind. She was diagnosed at just 19 months old and has tunnel vision; she can see in front of her but has limited peripheral vision.
A senior, Smolka finished second in both the 50-yard (:43.71) and 100-yard freestyle (1:43.86). She dislocated her shoulder in a dual meet in October and only got back in the pool for last weekend’s sectional meet.
“I was happy with how I swam,” Smolka said. “Coming off the injury, being back in the water felt good.”
Oak Lawn coach T.J. Zuzga loved what he saw of the races.
“Not everyone gets to experience this,” Zuzga said. “Sam swam great, and with her injury, she really stepped it up this week. We’re making history here, and I’m really proud of her.”
Fenwick swimmer Mary Kate Callahan reached an agreement with the IHSA in September to allow swimmers with disabilities to compete at the state meet. Callahan is paralyzed from the waist down.