Heart of gold

Chants of “stroke” echoed throughout John Vanderzicht Memorial Pool possibly louder than they ever have before last Thursday.

Yells weren’t only coming from the home crowd, but every member of the opposing Marysville-Pilchuck swim team joined as Oak Harbor senior Nicole Nagel pushed herself through the final 25 meters of the 100 butterfly.

“It was the most inspirational thing I’ve ever seen,” Nagel’s mother, Kari said. “It was just wonderful, it brought tears to my eyes.”

No, Nagel wasn’t leading the race. In fact, she finished nearly five minutes behind the first-place finisher.

Nagel, however, accomplished something in her final high school race not many gave her a shot of doing three years ago.

The senior, who is diagnosed with mild retardation, attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, joined Oak Harbor’s swim team as a sophomore with no experience.

“The first year I got her on the team, she couldn’t even swim,” Kari Nagel said.

When she touched the wall last Thursday, Nagel erased any doubt anyone ever had about her ability — or their own for that matter.

For the first time ever, she competed in, and finished a race considered to have the hardest stroke to learn.

“No one can ever say they can’t swim the 100 fly now,” senior captain Missy McIntyre said.

Other’s were also wowed by Nagel’s performance.

“For me that’s a hard race and I’ve been swimming since the sixth grade,” senior Danielle Dillard said. “For her to come in and only in her third year of swimming do a 100 butterfly is awesome — I’m very proud of her.”

Nagel’s heart, however, is nothing new to her teammates — especially those that have been there with her all along.

“It’s good to see it’s not all about competition, it’s individual improvement,” senior Kelsi Franzen said. “It’s not just about winning, it’s about seeing yourself improve over the years and she’s a perfect example of that.”

Nagel didn’t qualify for the district meet Nov. 4, but to no one’s surprise she will be there in Marysville cheering on her teammates and appropriately so.

“She honestly put the team together, she’s brought us all together,” Dillard said.

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