By ADAM FERRISE
Special to The Gazette
Elaina Lanson is not the typical freshman success story.
Lanson endured a multitude of barriers throughout the season. Being a freshman was the least of her concerns.
The Gazette MVP in girls swimming was the first female athlete from Wadsworth to qualify for the state meet in an event other than diving, and she did so without practicing for the majority of the season.
She suffered an injury to the ligaments in her shoulder and back while cross training over Labor Day weekend. She wasnâ€™t able to practice muchÂ â€” sometimes not at allÂ â€” during her first high school season.
It didnâ€™t seem to matter. Lanson broke the school record in the 50-meter freestyle in her first meet. She went on to notch wins in the 50- and 100-frees against Copley, and a win in the 100 free against Medina.
Lanson took eighth place in the Northeast Invitational in both events, then notched a win in the 50 free and in the 500 free, an event in which she didnâ€™t normally participate.
Just as she was starting to get comfortable around mid-January, the phone at the Lansonâ€™s house rang.
Her mother, Karen, answered. It was a stalker, who made threats against Elaina.
â€œThe first thing I did was call the police and then alert the school,â€ Karen Lanson said. â€œThe school kept a hold of her until her father and I got there.â€
Elaina was called down to the office during the middle of the day. Both her parents and school administrators were there. They told her what happened and went over precautions they needed to take.
The school administrators and the Wadsworth swimming family â€” coaches, swimmers and parents â€” took action.
They made sure someone always walked with Lanson from morning practice to school and from school to afternoon practice.
If Lansonâ€™s parents, Karen and John, werenâ€™t able to give her a ride, someoneâ€™s parents would always step in and keep an eye out for her. They also scoured the parking lot before morning practices.
â€œIt was pretty scary,â€ Elaina Lanson said. â€œIâ€™m not allowed to be by myself anymore. Iâ€™m just glad I had my teammates there. Iâ€™m lucky.â€
The threatening calls have yet to cease and the police are still working on the case, Karen said.
It would have been easy to take the rest of the season off under the circumstances. The thought never entered Lanson or her parentsâ€™ mind.
â€œNever thought about it,â€ Karen said. â€œSheâ€™s been swimming since she was 6 months old, competitively since she was 5. We just made sure to keep a close eye on her.â€
Lanson was able to block out any negative thoughts by listening to her iPod until the last possible moment. Once she got in the pool, she never thought about the stalker or the injury.
And she kept winning.
She ended the regular season with another win in the 50 free, but, more impressively, she set the school record in the backstroke, which she had not swam in all season.
Lanson was even more impressive in the postseason, notching second place in the 100 and 50 in the Suburban League meet.
She won the sectional championship by breaking her own school record in the 50 free and placed second in the 100, also breaking her own record.
She qualified for state with a third-place finish in the 50 free and just missed in the 100 free with a seventh-place finish.
Lanson was also a part of the 400 freestyle relay team, the first girls relay in Wadsworth history to qualify for state.
â€œI am just really glad I came that far,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m glad I could just make it to state at all.â€
Ferrise may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.