Michaela Walker met her hero, Katie Ledecky, at the Southern Zone Speedo Sectionals in Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Agnese Walker.)

Blue Wave swimmer Michaela Walker recently qualified to compete at the Southern Zone Speedo Sectionals in Orlando, where she got to swim in the same pool with Olympic Gold medalists, Caeleb Dressel, Katie Ledecky, Natalie Hinds and Michael Andrew. Walker swam the 50m and the 100m breaststroke and also got to watch these Olympic legends race, which left a great impression on her.

“I was starstruck when I saw them in person,” said Walker. “I especially was excited to see Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel because I’ve looked up to them since I started swimming at age 8. It was very fun to watch Katie Ledecky beat her Olympic times. When she touched the wall, the atmosphere on-deck was crazy as everyone was cheering. Watching Caeleb Dressel was also amazing, knowing that he’s the fastest in the world. Actually meeting all the Olympians and having a conversation with them was incredible, and I was at a loss for words. Reflecting back on it makes me realize that they are just people, proving that anything is possible.”

Walker has competed as a swimmer since she was 8 for the Blue Wave at High 5, Inc. The sophomore also swims for Strawberry Crest High School, where she participates in the IB program. Walker is a great student-athlete with a 5.0 GPA, balancing school and swim six days per week.

The 16-year-old is also active in her community as a volunteer. She recently made Valentine’s Day goody bags for the Migrant Education Program. The bags were for the less fortunate kids of migrant workers in need.

The swimmer didn’t do as well as she wanted at the event, but meeting her role models has changed her perspective.

“I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, but my coach told me that this meet is just an experience and the start of a new chapter,” said Walker. “He told me to just watch them, as they are some of the best swimmers in the world, and just take in everything. My favorite part of that weekend would have to be getting the opportunity to swim in the same lane as Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel. I was just casually warming up and when I got to the wall and looked up, there was Katie Ledecky right in front of me. I was shocked that I was in the same lane as the fastest person in the world. This was the moment that made me realize that although Ledecky has literally won the Olympics seven times and has swum all over the world, she is just a person.”

Walker will compete at the senior championships, which is a state-level meet for swimmers aged 15-18 who qualify. She hopes to continue to improve and make more sectional cuts and swim in more events at sectionals. She also wants to make a Futures cut and has aspirations of swimming in college.

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.