Gordon Central’s Nolan Swaim can now call herself an international track competitor.
The rising junior recently returned from a trip to Australia for the International Sports Specialists, Inc. Down Under Games, and she said the experience is something she’ll never forget.
Swaim left on June 30 along with her mother, Terry, and flew to Australia where she spent eight days, two of those spent competing in four total events. Then on July 8, she left Australia for three additional days in Hawaii, which was part of the tournament package.
Swaim said the trip was an amazing experience.
“I was so excited to be going to Australia and Hawaii because I never thought I would have a chance to go there,” said Swaim. “It still didn’t set in that I was in Australia until I left. I didn’t know I would love going to new places so much, and I definitely want to travel to other countries.
“I could live without the 13-hour plane ride, but once we landed, I knew it was worth it. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.”
Swaim was selected to participate in the event last fall and was helped in her efforts to pay for the trip by several sponsors and other fundraising activities.
The Down Under Games featured competitors from the U.S., Australia and other countries as well.
“First things first, the Australians are amazing at track,” said Swaim. “Other than that, the competition was really good. It made everyone work harder than they thought they would, including me.”
Swaim competed in four total events, the 800 meter, 1500 meter, 2000 meter steeplechase and 4x400 meter relay.
Her highest finish was in the steeplechase in which she took third. Her relay team finished fourth, and she placed eighth in both the 800 and 1500.
Swaim said she was pleased with how she ran, and she thinks her performance in the Down Under Games will have a positive effect on her now that she’s back at Gordon Central.
“I think I competed to the best of my ability in my events,” said Swaim. “I was so happy that I placed and medaled third in the steeplechase.
“The experience has made me want to work harder because I saw the level of competition other runners were at, and I want to get there. It has motivated me so much more than I expected.”
The competition was held at Griffith University’s Gold Coast Campus in Queensland, Australia. Along with Track, the Down Under Games also features several other events at different times over the summer, including basketball, cheer and dance, cross country, football, volleyball and wrestling.
Swaim said one of her goals before leaving was to meet a lot of new people and make new friends, and she said she felt like that was a big part of the trip.
“Everybody there was almost overwhelmed with all the new people they were meeting everyone was okay if their name slipped your mind,” said Swaim. “I met so many amazing people including my roommates and our tour guide. One of my favorite people I met was our tour guide, Adam Thurling.
“All of the Australians I met were very polite and wanted for all the Americans to keep talking because of our accents.”
Along with the competition, the trip included several other activities. Swaim said she narrowed her favorite parts down to a few.
“My favorite parts of Australia were running the steeplechase and 4x400, going to the zoo, and going to the beach,” said Swaim. “The Australia Zoo was so amazing. I got to hold a koala and pet a kangaroo. I also got to attend an Aboriginal show.
“My favorite parts of Hawaii was going snorkeling and seeing an octopus, going to Pearl Harbor and seeing the U.S.S. Arizona and swimming in the ocean.”
Swaim is the Gordon Central school record holder in the 800 meter and has qualified for the event at the Girls State Track Meet each of the last two seasons.
Swaim said there’s no doubt what her decision would be if she was picked to compete again in the Down Under Games.
“I would absolutely go back next year, no questions asked, and I would recommend just going for a vacation,” said Swaim. “I wish I could live there, so of course I would go back.”