Joy in the Journey: Midland Athletes go to the USA Down Syndrome Swimming Team Training Camp
“Our relationships are far beyond what happens in this pool.”
Coach Buffy Hall leads the Dolphins swim team in Midland. It’s a competitive swim team for all ages and all abilities.
She’s known and worked with Luke Drumright, Adam White, and Jessica Day far before they were part of the team.
Coach Buffy Hall says, “I have known Luke since he was probably eight years old. Adam’s grandparents and my parents lived on the same street when I was born. So I’m friends with Adam’s aunt, we grew up together. I just got to know Jessica the last couple years, and Jessica and I have a very special relationship, we’re totally BFF’s.”
Luke, Adam, and Jessica have Down Syndrome, but that hasn’t stopped their love for swimming.
“I’m so pumped to be part of a team and show them how much I can do this,” says Luke.
“‘What’s your favorite stroke in the pool?’ Oh, the breaststroke! ‘The breaststroke! You like to do the breaststroke.’ Yup. ‘What’s your second favorite stroke?’ The freestyle,” says Adam.
Jessica tells us, “My heart is focused on swimming…My favorite stroke right now, has to be butterfly.”
Down Syndrome is not typically just an intellectual impairment, there is almost always a physical component that goes along with it.
For Luke, he has asthma and an un-repaired hole in his heart– but swimming helps Luke focus and motivates him to live a healthy lifestyle.
Luke says, “I learned how to always be supportive and always learn I can do it. If someone says they can’t do it, they can do it. Be supportive and cheer your friends on, and always be a good athlete.”
Adam has type one diabetes and Apraxia– a speech sound disorder that affects the brain, where he knows what he wants to say, but it’s difficult to make the right sounds and words.
For Adam — “‘What makes you happy about swimming?’ …so you get to see friends, yes. ‘You get to have fun, and it’s good exercise.'”
And Jessica has a heart defect and asthma.
For all three of these athletes, their passion for swim has taken them to great lengths, making it on multiple swim teams.
“I’ve been on five swim teams so far. Dolphins, Special Olympics, also Dow High, USA, Masters,” says Luke.
And Jessica, “I’ve been swimming 3 teams now, with the Dolphins team, and the Special Olympics, and the USA team.”
They’ve represented Michigan in the first USA Down Syndrome National Swimming Team Training Camp in Florida with qualifying times among 40 other swimmers.
Coach Buffy Hall says, “In order to participate at the level that they did, they have to be USA registered swimmers. They had to qualify for the meet that they went to.”
Luke tells us, “I had so much fun in Florida…My favorite memory is getting that record, there’s so many memories I have but the biggest one is getting that record.”
Luke broke the senior America’s Regional Record for the 100 Breaststroke for all of North and South American athletes with Down Syndrome.
Luke says, “I wasn’t expecting to get it. I got it and I was a little bit nervous at first, but I was really excited.”
But for Jessica– it was what happened outside of the pool.
With a big smile, she says, “I never had a friend before, and now I have friends at camp. I made two awesome friends there. It’s really awesome to be there, to support them.”
Adam had qualifying times in two events, the 50 Freestyle and the 50 Breaststroke.
But that wasn’t what put the biggest smile on his face while in Florida..
For Adam– “‘What made you happy?’ I was happy there was a lot of food!” (laughing)
Their support— coming from all over.
“Before they went to the camp, the senior kids all wrote good luck notes and have fun notes, and we put them in a bag with some airplane snacks…Luke sent videos to me, every morning when he was at camp that said, ‘good morning we’re going to do dry land today or we’re going to workout today,'” says Hall.
Luke, Jessica and Adam have done so well because of their dedication to the sport, and the support from their parents and the Midland community.
I asked Adam, “‘Is it exciting to hear people cheer for you?’ Yes, they cheer. There’s a lot of people in the crowd. Go Adam!” Says White.
Luke says, “I really wanna be famous someday.”
And he’s not too far from it.