By Isabel Montesanto,
By 9 a.m. on April 24, second period had begun at Davis High, but then-junior Chenoa Devine was not at school. The placid water of Miromar Lakes, Fla., swirled around her as she took measured stroke after measured stroke, pacing herself for the next five kilometers.
By the end of the 10k race, her movement was labored and every stroke felt like her slowest yet, but the clock showed a different story.
With a time of two hours and just over six minutes, Devine ranked third in the country for swimmers 18 and under. This feat qualified her for the U.S. National Junior Swim Team, a group of young, elite swimmers “preparing to burst onto the world stage,” according to usaswimming.org.
When Devine heard the news, she was exhausted–and more than a little delirious.
“I did a little dance around my coach,” she recalled. “I was yelling, singing…it was one of the most amazing moments of my life.”
“It’s such an honor,” Devine said of her qualification. “Like, you’ve worked your butt off to get this far and this fast, and finally it pays off.”
Devine first began open-water racing when she was around 11. What started as one to two miles at local swimming events turned into 5ks and eventually 10ks. When it became clear that she had both raw talent and dedication to the sport, she began racing seriously, working her way up to the national level.
Although pool swimming is much more popular than open water, Devine prefers the latter.
“You either love it or you hate it,” she said.
Needless to say, Devine is in the first category. The grueling length of the multi-kilometer races gives her time to really think about the effort that she’s putting in, and she likes that longer races require strategy, not just physical strength.
Open water may be her chief passion, but Devine is no slouch at pool racing. When she placed fourth in her age group for the 400-meter freestyle at nationals four months later, it was icing on the cake. That achievement alone would have qualified Devine for the Junior Team, but since her 10k time had already done that, this accomplishment was free of the earlier song and dance.
Now a senior, Devine’s upcoming challenge is the Junior Nationals competition later this month.
But her real goal is much greater–the 2016 Brazil Olympics. Next June, she will compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials, racing against 1,400 other athletes for a coveted spot on Team USA.