Sports Spotlight - West Orange Times & Observer: Ava Bartolomei

Ava Bartolomei, 14, had the opportunity to represent Puerto Rico in an international swimming competition.

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  • | 5:50 p.m. July 20, 2017
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As a member of the SouthWest Stars swim team out of SouthWest Aquatics in Winter Garden, Ava Bartolomei has swam in plenty of big competitions at the state and national levels. Recently, though, she got to go a notch higher, swimming the 100-meter butterfly for Puerto Rico in the Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation Championships in Trinidad.



How did you come to be able to swim for the Puerto Rican team at the competition?

At first, my dad came up to me with the idea of swimming for Puerto Rico, which I thought was really cool. It’s something bigger than I’ve ever done. … I was selected in May to swim for the team and that was something that really excited me. 


What was the experience like?

It was something really new. I’d been told about what it would be like, but to see it myself was really eye-opening. It’s really humbling, almost — you see that there is so much beyond Florida.


You swam against some pretty impressive competition at the meet. What was your biggest takeaway?

I took away that you just have to stay humble about who you are, because there are so many other people that are so much better than you. You just have to work from that. You just have to realize where you are and see how you can get better.

You weren’t alone in Trinidad — three other Southwest Aquatics swimmers also competed (two for Puerto Rico and one for Trinidad & Tobago). Was that helpful?

Yes. To have other (local) girls representing Puerto Rico with me, it helped ease the transition into meeting new people. It made it a lot easier to communicate and just go with the flow of things — it made it feel like home, almost.


Did you make any new friends with girls on the Puerto Rican team who reside in Puerto Rico?

Yes! Social media is a big part of that — getting their phone numbers and Snapchat and all of that crazy stuff. It’s interesting, getting to know them down there and then being able to communicate, still, from such a far distance, is really awesome.


Did you get to do any sightseeing?

I went down a few days early with friends that are from Trinidad. So, I got a kind of local viewpoint of what it’s like down there. … It’s really interesting.


What has been the most impactful thing you have learned from two years of working with your coach at Southwest Aquatics, Justin Correia?

Mentality-wise, he’s taught me that you have to be not only physically-prepared, but mentally-prepared going into anything. I never really woke up to it until I realized that I’ve had my low points in swimming when I was not mentally focused and prepared for my races. So that’s been a big thing for me.


What are your goals for the upcoming varsity season at West Orange?

I want to be the top flyer on the team — and that’s really difficult, because I know what I’m up against. I really hope to impress my coach, but also to represent West Orange in the best way possible.


What’s your favorite subject in school?

I’d have to say social studies and history. I don’t know why — current events and stuff like have just really interested me the past couple of years.


Given that answer, what do you think you would like to do for a career?

I’d like to go into politics, actually. One day, I’d like to be an elected official. That’s an endpoint goal of mine, whether it’s at the state or national level. That’s really a dream of mine.


What’s your favorite political movie or television show?

“House of Cards.” It’s really not something I want to be modeled after — because they’re not the best, definitely — but it’s really interesting.


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