How does one become one of the elite in her sport?
Tess Heavner knows. It takes some determination, and sometimes a dedicated aunt as well. When the Fenton 13-year-old couldn’t train in her sport of choice — swimming — during the COVID-19 lockdown, she found a way to continue training.
“Luckily, I have an amazing aunt who heated her backyard pool to 92 degrees,” Heavner said. “I drove over there every day — even in the snow, rain or wind to swim until the Flint Golf Club’s pool recently re-opened.”
Her dedication is paying off. Heavner was one of the up-and-coming athletes selected across the country to participate in a 2020 USA Swimming Zone Select Camp. She was selected for the Central Zone camp roster. When those selections are made, the fastest swimmer in each zone in each Olympic event is invited for a total of 14 additional male and female athletes. Heavner, who attends St. John School, earned her spot based on her 2019 long course IMX score as a 12-year-old in the 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter butterfly and the 200-meter individual medley.
“It was a big goal of mine for the past few years to get selected at age 12,” Heavner said. “I always focus on my IMX score more than just a couple of events. This helps me make sure I don’t specialize in a stroke too young. So I knew trying to be selected off my IMX score would be my best bet. I have teammates that have been selected in past years and I know many USA National Team Members have been selected at my age. It is definitely an honor to receive this invitation from USA Swimming, and also motivation to continue on to my next goal.”
Unfortunately due to COVID-19 the camp involved a virtual training session instead of a trip training with like-minded and talented swimmers in the same pool. Still, Heavner enjoyed the virtual session. It included discussions about leadership and their swim futures with a panel of USA Swimming National Team athletes.
“Listening to these swimmers describe their experiences at our age and also what they were currently doing to stay in shape outside of pool was very cool,” Heavner said.
“I was most disappointed about not spending the long weekend with the athletes that are on that roster. Many of them have become friends of mine over the years, and many I have wanted to get to know better. I am hopeful the in-person camp will be able to happen next summer.”
Heavner swims with Club Wolverine and began swimming when she was 3.
“I am a competitor…I love to race, but what I’ve realized now more than ever is that being with my teammates 3-plus hours every day,” Heavner said. (I love) those friendships. That is what I enjoy most about swimming.”