On dry land, they seem like three typical, unassuming and down-to-earth teenagers — bubbly, engaged and poised — but these Immaculate Heart High Schoolers are accomplished aquatic scholar athletes whose Catholic faith is intertwined with sport and life.
Swimming and diving is a big deal at the Hollywood campus. ”It’s probably the sports we are most known for in our league and CIF,” says Maureen Rodriguez, athletic director at the all-girls’ school. “But I’m most proud that these girls are solid athletes, good students, friendly and well-rounded.”
Just recently, this trio of athletes — Olivia Rosendahl (junior) Anora Denison (sophomore) and Meghan Go (sophomore) — placed highly at the CIF-SS Division 3 Swimming and Diving championships held in Riverside.
Rosendahl placed first and broke her own CIF record in the 1-meter diving, which she set in 2012 as a freshman. She now holds the highest score recorded in any division in CIF. Denison placed fourth and senior Colette Toal was 13th.
Among Immaculate Heart’s six varsity swimmers, Go finished fifth in the 100 freestyle, sixth in the 50 freestyle and swam on two relay teams which helped the school finish ninth among 50 schools overall in Division 3.
Competition aside, all three athletes say their sport offers opportunities to excel not just physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Diving and swimming, they say, is a part of their overall journey through life.
“Every person has a gift and if mine is this, then it should have a positive effect on those around me,” says Rosendahl, a parishioner at St. Charles Borromeo Church in North Hollywood. “Diving allows me to be more social and reach out to make new friends. It gives me that confidence to be out there.”
“When I came here I was very shy, but not anymore,” says Go who attends St. Bernard Church in Glassel Park. Through swimming, she says she’s learned how to give and receive compassion. “When I have a bad race, my friends will comfort me and I know that people will support me in whatever I do,” she says. “I see how important these connections are.”
“Diving provides an outlet from all the stresses of academics,” chimes in Denison, who attends Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Pasadena. “It allows me to be myself and it gives me a fresh outlook on life.”
Adds Go: “If I’m having a really bad day and I get into the water, I feel really refreshed, and it’s like all the weight I have on my shoulders is lifted. I swim and feel really good.”
Denison says her faith has guided her through her love of the sport and the complications that involve from the 2¬Ω hours-a-day, six-days-a-week (sometimes seven), year-round practice schedule.
“If I am struggling with something, I usually remind myself that God has given me these gifts and the motivation and focus to succeed,” she says. “I just have to trust.”
Trust in God is key, the girls agree. “Right before I take off from the block, I think, ‘I’m going to give this all to you, God,’” says Go who adds that she will make a sign of the cross before splashing into the pool.
The long, intense schedule, they say, has its benefits that will be a part of their future, since all plan to continue their athletic career at college.
“When you get home at 7 every night, after a day of school and practice, you have to learn how to focus and not procrastinate,” says Denison. “Diving has given me focus, determination and patience in all aspects of my life. I can’t imagine my life without it.”