Nadia Sumner: Leader in and out of the Pool


Nadia Sumner ‘22 has always been a swimmer. Since age three, she was drawn to the water and has found the beach and the pool to be relaxing. “I love the water. It’s always been my favorite place, and it’s a really cool element,” she explains. Though she tested out other sports in her childhood like soccer, basketball, and karate, swimming was the one that stuck.

Beyond feeling at home in the water, swimming provides a space to compete competitively for Nadia as well. “Ever since I was younger, I wanted to swim competitively. I don’t know why I had that instinct, but I always just wanted to do it,” she says. She recalls staying up into the wee hours of the morning or waking up extremely early to watch Olympic swimming competitions. Her swim coach at the YMCA started his own club team when she was in sixth grade, which was her way into competitive swimming. Her club team is called PDR through USA Club Swimming.

Nadia swims both for a club team and for the Friends Select Varsity Swim Team. She only began swimming for school in high school. “I love my club team because it is challenging and it really pushes you to be your best and work really hard,” she says. 

As for the Friends Select team, in addition to wearing masks and other general safety precautions, the team is experiencing some omicron variant related challenges. Many of the swimmers have recently had close exposures, contracted Covid, or do not feel comfortable coming to practice. “Our past two swim meets, we have had a five-person team,” Nadia explains. However, that has certainly not hindered the team’s success. “I proudly say that [at] our last two meets, we went against Shipley and Abington Friends School, and with our small but mighty team, we were able to win… We try to stay spirited and make the most of what we’ve got.”

Bella Robinson ‘22, who is a swim teammate of Nadia’s, says the following: “When it comes to getting something done, she’s a person you can count on. I really admire the way that she has led our team… she has made sure that everyone is safe and comfortable while still pushing them in their sport.”

This season is currently Nadia’s most successful. “Definitely a lot of improvement from freshman year to now, with my times dropping and being able to compete in longer distances. I still have my goals for the rest of the season, but so far it’s going pretty well,” Nadia shares.

Swimming has taught Nadia a lot of valuable lessons, especially the mental capabilities gained from challenging herself through swimming. Nadia believes that swimming is a particularly unique sport in its balance between physical and mental strength, which is “especially [needed] when we have really challenging sets or long practices where we are swimming for three hours.” Though adapting to the mental toughness required from the sport was a challenge initially, “once you get the hang of it and let yourself adapt to it, anything that anybody throws your way is just like, ‘ok, we’re doing this!’ That has been really cool, and I feel like I can apply that to other parts of my life,” she says. 

Nadia’s advises other swimmers to emphasize consistency and make it to every practice possible. Despite the difficulty, regularity is key for progress. The same goes for the opposite – “when you don’t swim, it gets harder,” she warns. She encourages her fellow swimmers to do their best to “enjoy the time” and “build long, meaningful connections. I think sports, in general, can teach you a lot of things about life like perseverance, determination, and working as a team.” Nadia shares that her teammates bond over collective experiences like long drives to long meets and the collective experience of ever-present chlorine. 

Though swimming is a big part of Nadia’s life, it must be balanced with many other responsibilities. She makes the most out of her free periods and makes sure to ask for assistance and extensions when needed. “It is one of those things where you just have to adapt, try your best, make mistakes, and figure out what works for you,” she explains. She often takes free time or weekend time to plan out the upcoming week and set hard deadlines to help ease this balance. 

Outside of the pool, Nadia pursues various extracurricular and academic interests. Her favorite class is Spanish. Beyond just the language, “[she] is interested in anything relating to international relations or the international field.” Because of this, she has also enjoyed her semester elective, Global Environmental Politics. She also enjoys the challenges of Physics and Calculus classes. Nadia is also the Vice-President of Student Government, a leader of the Black Student Union, a member of Diversity Clerks, and part of her church’s youth group.

Nadia has tackled challenges in swimming, school, and the balance between. She summarizes, “I’m determined, driven, and I like to have fun. And that’s a little bit about me!