When Traci Muszalski took her first competitive plunge into the pool at 8 years old, the Lake Central senior never envisioned it would lead to the opportunity to swim in college.
Muszalski, a distance specialist for the Indians, will realize her dream when she signs this week to swim for Ball State University. It was a combination of hard work and perseverance, highlighted by a seventh-place finish in the 500 free at last year’s state finals.
“I’m very excited now that I have my college picked out,” said Muszalski, who’s a two-time sectional champion and record holder in the 200 and 500 frees. “It allows me to focus on my senior season. I’m not stressed out now, and it will allow me to focus more on my swimming.”
The Lake Central captain leads by example as well as encouraging her teammates at practice and meets.
“The girls can look to her for advice,” coach Todd Smolinski said. “She’s a great speaker, too. Before meets she gets the girls fired up. She’s doing it all.”
It was a trait Muszalski learned as a sophomore from former LC standout backstroker Shelby Carroll, who’s swimming at Indiana University.
“She always led by example and helped me realize what it took to swim in college and to be a leader,” Muszalski said. “She was the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. I strive to be like her.”
It was also during Muszalski sophomore season when she thought maybe she could swim at the next level after she had a ton of time drop.
“I realized I do have the ability, and that was my mindset the rest of the time,” she said.
She qualified for state as a freshman in relays and in the 200 and 500 frees and relays her sophomore and junior campaigns.
Smolinski said distance swimming’s rigorous workouts fits Muszalski’s makeup.
“She’s excited when you give her a set that is challenging,” he said. “Distance swimmers don’t get the glamor. Their heads are in the water, looking at the bottom of the pool a lot. …You have to have a certain mindset, and she has that.”
Muszalski relishes they’re the first ones in the pool and the last one’s out.
“It prepares me for anything that they need me to do well in, that I’m expected to do well in,” she said.
Now she hopes to help lead the Indians to that elusive sectional title. She finally accomplished her personal best in the state meet for the first time with her 4:59.46 in the 500 prelims.
“I felt like that was an accomplishment. I did perform my best at the highest level of competition,” she said.