By John Philip Wyllie
Although she is only a teenager, Escondido’s Lorronishae Escalona can trace the beginnings of her swimming career back to 1968.
1968 is the summer they held the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Her father grew up there and was 16-years old at that time. He was fascinated by the Olympics, especially the swimming. That summer he got the chance to see champions like Mark Spitz and Mexico’s Felipe Munoz make history.
The Olympics made its mark on him. He improved his swimming well enough to compete later on Mexico’s national water polo team and he followed that with a coaching stint that lasted many years. One of his many pupils was his daughter, Lorronishae. She was one of the many athletes competing in the California State Games last weekend. Events in 20 different sports were held all over the county and the competition featured athletes as young as eight and as old as 18.
“Swimming runs in our family,” Escalona said after competing in the 100m breaststroke, one of several events she would swim on this hot summer’s morning at La Jolla’s Coggan Family Aquatic Center. “My grandmother used to perform synchronized swimming (and her brother also competes for the Escondido Swim Club). I am a freestyler and I also swim the individual medley which includes all of the strokes. Competing more against herself than against the athletes swimming in the other lanes, Escalona set a personal record with her time of 1:42 in the 200m freestyle.
“If you are not a swimmer you might think that swimming laps is boring, but if you are a swimmer, you focus on something different every day. One day you might for example, focus on your turns. You have to set goals for yourself and always be shooting for a better time,” Escalona said. In addition to the competition, she enjoys the camaraderie that she finds within the sport.
“It sounds kind of corny, but you really do feel like a family out there. We went to the opening ceremonies last night (which included thousands of athletes at Qualcomm Stadium and Tony Gwynn delivering the keynote address). We were out there with our Escondido Swim Club signs and it felt really good. It was set up as a replica of the Olympics. They had a cool opening ceremony with Olympic fanfare and certain top-notch athletes carrying the Olympic torch. Waving to the people cheering for you in the stands was great. It really gets your adrenalin flowing,” she said enthusiastically.
Escalona is the first to admit that swimming has its drawbacks.
“Swim meets are famous for being very, very, long and swimming takes up a lot of your time. Meets often take up your whole weekend, but they can also be fun. When the whole team is there we play games under the tents. You certainly get a good chance to know everybody on your team because you are there all day. Cheering your friends on can be very exhilarating. We are united as a team. It’s a good feeling.”