Athlete Spotlight: Monument Mountain's Aubrey Blanchard
With a 4-0 start to start the 2018 campaign, the Monument Mountain girls swimming team is currently in a stretch of winning 44-straight regular season meets. Jill Svirda, who's been coaching the Spartans for 14 years, has also been coaching Aubrey Blanchard since she was seven. Blanchard came into the Eagle office to discuss being celebrated at Harvard as a Positive Coaching Alliance Triple-Impact Competitor and her legacy as a Spartan.
BERKSHIRE EAGLE: You were one of the 11 high school student-athletes selected from a pool of more than 1,500 students for the Triple-Impact award, how did you feel when you were nominated for such a prestigious award?
AUBREY BLANCHARD: Well, a friend of mine recommended that I do it. I filled it out as a junior and didn't hear back by the end of the Summer. I didn't tell anyone I applied, not even my parents. I didn't know what to expect, if nothing came out of it I didn't want it to become a big thing. It was an honor.
EAGLE: When you finished your high school career you will have 12 varsity letters, what is your biggest takeaway from your sports career?
BLANCHARD: I think most importantly the friendships I've made and also the role models I have gained in my coaches and teammates. Just seeing them live their life and go through the things they go through every day and taking that to heart on how to go through my life from them.
BERKSHIRE EAGLE: In swimming you have teammates cheering for you, but most of the time you're in the water by yourself, what did you learn and what are you trying to teach?
BLANCHARD: In the pool, even though it can get loud, you can't hear much. I try to help the younger athletes realize that in a lot of other sports you can hear the people cheering for you, but in swimming you have to make yourself continue and fight in your mind. It's been a good experience for me to help mentally prepare for other things in life and other sports. Swimming has given me the gift of being mentally prepared for whatever comes my way.
EAGLE: You started swimming when you were seven, it's been ten years. Why have you enjoyed being in the pool for so long while finding so much success?
BLANCHARD: It's a big challenge, it's one I know I can conquer if I put my mind to it. To go through so many years of doing something so physically and mentally demanding, I have been able to apply that to other aspects of my life. I know I can do anything I put my mind to.
EAGLE: You're pretty busy playing three sports, what do you try to do in your free time?
BLANCHARD: I love to go support my brothers at their sporting events. I ski on the weekends and during the summer I work a lot when I am not training with my cousin. She's 13 and a very good athlete. We train together because we are both very competitive so we push each other.
EAGLE: Three and a half years of high school athletics, what's the one moment you always go to that pushes you to keep going?
BLANCHARD: I have a couple. One of the greatest moments for me individually was scoring the winning goal of the girls soccer Western Mass Semi-Finals in overtime during my junior year was a great personal success. Then there are some bigger picture successes like walking out to `Fight Song' for our coach was really really empowering. Also, my friend tore her ACL this year. I just remember after the week she called me and was so excited she had done ten leg raises in physical therapy. I didn't think that would ever be something I was so excited and happy about, but it made me so happy.
EAGLE: Sports do such an incredible job at bringing people together, can you go into more detail about walking out to "Fight Song?"
BLANCHARD: My swim coach, Jill, has been my coach ever since I started swimming. So when I found out that she had breast cancer it was a shock. You never think it will impact you at such a young age, and she has very young kids and is very healthy so I didn't think something like this would ever happen. We went into that season with the mindset that we may have been undefeated for so long, but now we have a bigger test to remain undefeated. I think the team came together, so many people made it happen, and walking out onto the deck and seeing her face, I will never ever forget it. She was immediately in tears and we knew we were going to win that fight... and we did.
EAGLE: How do you want your high school story to end in terms of your sports career and personal goals?
BLANCHARD: I really just want to enjoy every second I have. I love my school and I really love the lessons, coaches, and role models it's given me. I just want to enjoy every second with my teammates. I committed to playing soccer at Emory University in [Atlanta] Georgia so knowing that the sports I am finishing my high school career on aren't necessarily the ones I will be continuing in my future, I want to just enjoy and love them.
EAGLE: Do you remember what it feels like to lose a swim meet?
BLANCHARD: I've personally lost races, but I've never been a part of a team loss in my high school career.
EAGLE: People often think back to a devastating loss and use it as motivation, how does your team stay motivated?
BLANCHARD: All coaches say that your biggest competition is your teammates, and in swimming it couldn't be more true. Our coach does a really good job at putting us in the mindset that it doesn't matter how successful you are, you need to keep going to better yourself and focus on long-term goals.
EAGLE: How important is it to be a great teammate?
BLANCHARD: For me it is the most important thing. I love being there for whatever my teammates need at any time. That's way more important for me than any success you'll see on paper.
EAGLE: Is it a challenge to balance school and sports?
BLANCHARD: It is challenging some nights, but for me going into athletics lets me forget my entire day before that. Its a chance for me to decompress and let go of everything. It puts me in a better mindset to do my work later that night.
EAGLE: Last question, whether there are new kids on the team, or you're the new kid on the team, what do you want your first impression to be?
BLANCHARD: I always try to show that I am there no matter what. Whatever they need in school, life, or athletics, I'll always be there and they can always reach out to me.
This interview was conducted, edited and condensed by Jake Mendel.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.