This is the time of year all girls swimmers and divers have been working for all season long with the arrival of the sectional meets and the chance to advance to the FMC Natatorium for the state tournament. One Naperville North sophomore used her sectional performance a season ago to announce her presence to the state of Illinois. Reese Navarro was born with a club foot, which was then amputated at the age of four. She now uses a prosthetic leg while competing in the Athletes with Disabilities Division, the first Huskie swimmer to ever compete in the Division. Despite a challenge that would seem challenging to some, Navarro embraced every opportunity to take part in athletics, with swimming and water polo emerging as her top choices as she grew closer to the high school age. This Feature Story is sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health.
“Swimming has always been my core sport because every time I come back to it, I love it but I’ve also skied, I play water polo, I used to do dance, soccer, and ice skating, so I’ve done almost every other sport, but swimming is just my constant and is always there,” said Naperville North swimmer Reese Navarro.
Racing for a different division
During the regular season, Navarro swims mostly in the junior varsity races. Once the postseason hits, she competes in four events in the Athletes with Disabilities Division. Those races are the 50 and 100-yard freestyle, along with the 100-yard breaststroke and 200-yard freestyle on the varsity level. In only two seasons she has brought excitement for the blue and orange. Since jumping into the pool for her first lesson at the age of five, the hard work to get Navarro to the varsity level has never stopped. Despite the physical challenges she faces as she enters the pool, the sophomore is ready to push her performance to new levels of success no matter the competition.
“As I got older, I got better and during my life up until high school I’ve only competed with normal people, so people without a disability. So that’s how I always learned how to compete so I’ve always compared myself to people without any disability, like normal people,” said Navarro.
“You’re ready to swim and compete so she had the desire to be a competitor. She did not want to be treated any differently than anybody else and during her time here she has done every morning and afternoon practice like anybody else and so she fits right in with the rest of the team,” said Naperville North head girls swimming coach Andy McWhirter.
After qualifying for state in all four races during last season’s sectional meet, Navarro went on to win first place in the 200 freestyle and the 100 yard breaststroke at the state meet. She wasn’t done from there as the then-freshman finished in the top two for the 50 and 100-yard freestyle. Not a bad performance in your first season on the biggest stage in the state. During sectionals, Navarro is often the lone swimmer in the pool during her events. But at state, the competition is fierce with three of the four races being decided by less than a second in 2022.
Now in her sophomore year, a chance to improve on her impressive debut brings excitement to the fans, her supportive teammates and head coach Andy McWhirter.
“She sets the example for all athletes, regular and able-bodied athletes all the way to athletes like herself to get out there and do the work to be competitive,” said McWhirter.
“My teammates are amazing I appreciate that I have them. They’re awesome they make every practice fun they always support me, they never say anything negative, they cheer me on at state and any other swim meet so they’re great,” said Navarro.
Navarro does it again
At the recent Neuqua valley girls swimming sectional Navarro continued her dominance by winning and qualifying in all four events for a second straight season.
As Navarro looks to have another strong performance at the state meet, she is hoping those in a similar position will embrace the challenges and pursue what they do best.
“They should just do whatever they want to do because nothing can stop them there’s always a way to persevere and push through and I think they’re awesome and they should just continue to do what they want to do,” said Navarro.
While she stays focused on the state meet, it will be exciting to see what she brings to the pool for years to come.
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