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Blackmon dives into life without swim

WED. | 05-04-22 | SPORTS

     Rose senior Lilley Grace Blackmon just recently hung up her eight-year swimming career in which she competed for Rose for four years and was a member of the East Carolina Aquatics (ECA) club swim team.

     Blackmon is no stranger to competition, having started training at Roses Gymnastics at an early age and learning how to properly train her body.

     “I competed competitively in gymnastics for the first 13 years of my life,” Blackmon said.

     During gymnastics, she swam for a summer league on the side just for fun. After an ECA coach saw her at a summer league swim meet, he went

Lilley Grace.jpg

Photo contributed by Maureen Despres

up to her parents and said he noticed she was beating his year-round kids and questioned why she was not swimming for ECA. As a result, Blackmon got into swimming and from there she took off. 

     In a sport like swimming, a lot of sacrifices need to be made. It definitely takes a toll on the mind and the body, but some people need and want that in their life. Blackmon was one of these people and swim, as she describes it, is her outlet. 

     “I liked ending my days swimming because we had a really good community of girls and we all love each other so much and are very close,” Blackmon said. 

     Not only did swim provide an outlet in general, but specifically during a time in Blackmon’s life when she needed it most. Blackmon’s parents split around two years ago, and with that came a lot of change that she was not prepared for. 

     “Everything changed, but I had swim practice every day so it was cool that that was one part of my life that stayed structured,” Blackmon said. 

     Being with the same group of people for eight years day in and day out, you get to know everything about them and start to form special bonds. Blackmon had the support she needed during this tough time and realized that the hard times are what brought them closer. 

     “Our successes are collective and so are our failures, and I think that's why we are all so close for so long and have stuck together through thick and thin,” Blackmon said. 

     Swimming meant so much to Blackmon, and she gained experiences, lessons and relationships from it that she will cherish for the rest of her life. One of the biggest takeaways from her career was how she learned to work in unity. 

     “I think it was really cool to watch over the years, as we all got so close, to see how our team did such a good job of rallying together and lifting each other up and functioning as a group for everyone to succeed,” Blackmon said. 

     Swimming took up practically all of Blackmon's free time when she was not at school or sleeping. Blackmon experienced a variety of feelings as she transitioned from having no time in the day to having a free day after she retired from the sport.

     “It's really bittersweet, [and] I'm sad that it's over because it's been such a big part of my life for the past eight years,” Blackmon said. “I'm also super excited to be able to dedicate that time towards other things.” 

     Since she's stopped, she has felt compelled to fill the void in some way, and she has tried a variety of things to do so.

     “I started weight training this week; I'm very sore right now,” Blackmon said, “I [also] run a lot.”

     Blackmon's love of swimming will never fade, but now is the time to branch out and try new activities that will hopefully have the same impact on her life as swimming.

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