Seneca Valley captain savors last laps in pool
Seneca Valley High School swimming captain Carley Belsterling couldn't be happier with her senior season.
Her fourth WPIAL championship appearance in as many years, and being a captain this time around gave Belsterling the chance to give back many of the things she was given as she grew up with the team.
“It was tricky this year because we had so many new swimmers,” Belsterling said.
The tricky part was getting everyone ready for the WPIAL and, hopefully, the upcoming PIAA championships.
“I got my cuts early, which was a relief,” she said. “Once I did that, I spent my time working on training and endurance.”
At the WPIAL championships, Belsterling was scheduled to compete in the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay, plus the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke events.
The senior was excited heading into the season because she earned the captain title, and got a chance to guide the team the way she remembers being guided as a rising talent.
“One thing I did not know about being a team captain was all the responsibility that came with it,” Belsterling said. “As a freshman, I looked up to the seniors, and I think they look up to me now.”
In addition to the usual duties of being a captain — mentoring teammates, leading vocally and by example — Belsterling said that heading up team functions and dinners was more work than she realized, but it is all worthwhile.
“Carley embodies what a captain is,” Seneca Valley coach Brian Blackwell said. “She is always on time and leads both vocally and by example.
“She has a lot of outside interests like student government and charity work. … She is dedicated to everything she does. She is efficient and excels at multiple activities.”
Belsterling said Blackwell emphasized technique over yardage and with that philosophy she was able to shave seconds off her time.
“It is amazing how details matter when you are in a race,” she said.
When she is swimming, Belsterling said that the sport takes a lot of time management.
“It can be hard to balance everything,” she said. “I had to adjust as a freshman so I could stay up on my schoolwork.
“It just comes naturally because I like to excel at everything I do. There is something inside of me that makes me strive for excellence, a competitive nature that never seems to rest.”
Having that mindset is one thing, but beginning to instill that mentality in others is something else, but difficulty has never deterred Belsterling.
“What was hard was getting to know all of the freshmen, because there were so many new swimmers,” she said.
“There were a lot of new faces, so it was hard to get everyone to the same level and work together right away.”
One way to get that ball rolling was to get everyone to support one another by cheering for each other at meets and keeping up traditions such as the Christmas dinner and secret Santa.
“It is more that just me,” she said. “There are other captains who do a great job as leaders.”
Reflecting on her career in the pool, Belsterling feels fortunate to have competed in the WPIAL championships four times. Her ultimate goal was to make her first appearance in the PIAA event.
When her high school swimming career is over, Belsterling will attend Penn State and study business, with the hope of studying law after that.
She may opt to swim for the Penn State Club team once she gets settled.
“My brother goes there, and I could not picture myself going anywhere else,” she said. “I will miss my teammates and coaches, and it will be weird to leave the pool behind. I am not sure what to do without swimming.”
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.