Aaron Dyer knew something was off the moment he pushed himself out of the pool.
The Aberdeen High School senior was disoriented, unable to focus once he was out of the water. The dizziness was in full effect. The nausea would surface later.
Doctors are still trying to figure out what exactly happened. The best theory Dyer has received is that it is either vertigo or something severely affecting his sinuses.
Regardless of the diagnosis, the symptoms remain, officially putting an end to his senior season of swimming at Aberdeen.
A four-year member of the team, Dyer’s final year turned out to be his shortest as he only made it through half of the schedule before being sidelined.
No doctor was prepared to clear him to swim again anytime soon. He really didn’t have to continue to show up at practice or meets. No one would have frowned upon him if he decided to turn in his Bobcats swim cap permanently.
The thought of missing even a moment with this team, however, never entered his mind.
“The reason I do swim team is because of the team,” Dyer stated. “If I can’t be in the water swimming for my team, I’m going to be on the side cheering them on.”
Dyer is one of three captains on this year’s Aberdeen squad, joined by senior Stephen Shaw and junior Conner Gates. All three harbor the same sentiment about the Bobcats – winning events with lightning fast times are great, but just being a member of this team far exceeds that feeling.
“This is probably the most connected team I’ve seen in my four years here,” Dyer said. “Everyone gets along really well and pushes each other to not just be better swimmers and better athletes, but better people.”
The team, under first-year head coach Rob Burns, consists of approximately two dozen swimmers with the large majority being underclassmen, several of which are turning out for the first time – a scenario that both Dyer and Shaw can relate to.
“I couldn’t swim at all before I joined this team. I did it because one of my friends convinced me to swim instead of doing basketball,” Dyer said. “I absolutely hated it the first week, but I just stayed with it and here I am four years later.”
Shaw has an even shorter background in the sport, having only been a member of the team since his sophomore year.
Growing up in New Mexico, an hour or so outside of Albuquerque, Shaw usually experienced weather that frequently reached 100-degree heat.
“It was either that or two feet of snow outside,” Shaw said.
Hardly ideal to spur anyone into competitive swimming.
After moving to Aberdeen, Shaw failed to alter his stance on the sport. That is until former Bobcats coach Angie Durr finally wore him down in the hallways.
“Coach Durr would always find me and pressure me into giving it a try,” Shaw said. “She would tell me how much fun I was going to have. I finally agreed to come out. Year after year it just continues to become more fun. That first week or two was exhausting, and it’s not just physically exhausting, it’s mentally exhausting. It took me a while to get used to it, but it eventually got easier. It’s kind of like a runner’s high. You start to need to be out there. It’s a sport that definitely grows on you.”
And when you’re surrounded by such a positive, encouraging and supporting team like the one the Bobcats feature this season, the impact can be even greater.
“This sport is very tiring, but it’s exhilarating at the same time,” Dyer said. “Half the guys here wouldn’t swim as fast as they do if they didn’t have someone cheering them on.”
Tops on that list, according to Shaw, are senior Ryan Curry and junior Trevor Mullin.
“They have been so inspirational this season. They yell and scream and cheer everyone on even if they are on a different team,” Shaw said. “They’re the most positive guys on the team and you have to have that help when you’re trying to improve. They make you feel like you’re part of a team.”
Despite all the new faces and first-time swimmers, the Bobcats have been consistently trimming seconds off their time all season.
With the regular season completed, Aberdeen will look to continue to improve on their times during the postseason with the hope of advancing several members to the state meet.
“I’m not thinking about next year right now, but I know next year is going to be really fun for us with all the swimmers we will have coming back,” said Gates, who was a member of the 200 medley and 200 freestyle relay teams which advanced to state last year. “This year we’re set on going to state and that’s our only goal. The determination of this team is really what sticks out to me this season. Everyone just continues to push each other.”