Portland Teen to Swim for US in Pacific Championship
They say that in Michigan you are never more than seven miles away from some body of water. That may be an exaggeration, but it is no surprise then to learn that a local girl, took to swimming like, well, a fish to water. For Lola Mull, a resident of Portland, and student athlete at Grand Ledge High School, swimming has been a constant part of her life from a very early age.
In addition to swimming for Grand Ledge High School, Mull swims for a club team, the Mid Michigan Aquatics Hurricanes. It is in the club team arena where she has recently been breaking not only her personal bests but state records. At the Phillips 66 National Championships held last month in Irvine, California she placed 20th in the 1500 meter freestyle and 27th in the 400 meter freestyle. MMA Hurricanes coach Ian Townsend says that, “both of Lola’s times in the 1500 & 400 Free were Michigan State records in the 15-16 year old division. She is an extremely competitive young lady that works hard every day toward her goals. Her spirit and personality make her easy to cheer for and her work ethic gives her a very high ceiling.”
As a result of her achievements in California last month she was ranked 2nd in the 18 and under swimmers securing an invitation to join US Junior National Team at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships. Mull will be representing the United States in the international competition held in Fiji August 23rd through 27th. The Beacon caught up with Mull for a phone interview while she was on vacation with her family. The following interview excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.
Smith: How did you first get interested in swimming?
Mull: My grandpa started swimming with he was a young kid, like 11 or something and he got kind of good at it….when he had children all my uncles started swimming. He held some state records a long time ago. My dad and uncle swam for MSU and another uncle swam for Ohio State. And my mom swam in high school too so my entire family is in swimming.
Smith: What is practice like competing in both the school and club teams? How do you balance that?
Mull: My club coach is also my high school coach so we don’t do club swimming while we are doing high school. So while we are doing high school we will just go to two practices a day a couple times a week. And as soon as that’s done you instantly start focusing on club.
Smith: I understand you qualified for a national swim camp. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Mull: Well I did get invited to an open water swim camp later in August. I was really excited to go. It was going to be in Wisconsin with a bunch of other distance swimmers training in the lake for once. I’ve got to go to another national camp in Colorado a while back and it was really fun. I was really excited to go. This past weekend though I went out to California for the national championships where I dropped enough time in the 1500 to qualify for the junior national team and go to Fiji.
Smith: So, later this month you are headed to Fiji to represent the US in the Junior Pan Pacific Championships. How does it feel?
Mull: Well, I’ve never traveled internationally before! I don’t really know how these meets work as I’ve never been a part of one. So I will be swimming the 1500 meter free and hopefully the 800 and 400 meter freestyle too. I’m not a hundred percent sure. Since your a part of the team they can have you swim multiple events but you have to make it onto the team. I think I’m just a part of it for this meet, but I hope I can keep being a part of it for more than just this because it’s so exciting!
Smith: You’ve broken several Michigan state records for your age group in the 1500 and 400 meter freestyle. What’s next?
Mull: Everytime I do that it's so exciting because my dad gets really excited and my family gets really really excited. It’s amazing to know that I can work hard enough and my team and my family and friends can support me enough to be the best Michigan distance swimmer in history. It’s really exciting!
Smith: When you’re not swimming, how do you like to spend your time?
Mull: Well I’m also in the pool to play water polo. It’s something I just do for fun. This is a hard question though because I’m in the pool so often. You know normal teenage stuff: sleeping, watching Netflix, reading, hanging out with friends.
Smith: What are your future plans after high school? Do you plan to keep swimming?
Mull: I love swimming a lot, and I really love competitive swimming. But I don’t really see myself being able to support myself and/or a family in the future. I’m really interested in the sciences and in math as well. I want to go to college and swim of course to support myself in college and have fun and get that experience. After that I think I’ll just focus on a career. I really like biology and specifically genetics.
PHOTOS: Courtesy Lola Mull and Ian Townsend. First: Lola Mull. Second: Mull at the Phillips 66 National Championship in July. Third: Mull with US olympic gold medalist, Simone Manuel.