Making Waves 3

Swimmer Abbey Cramer Makes an Impact

If you’re keeping an eye out for this “Woman to Watch,” you’re most likely to spot Abbey Cramer poolside donning a whistle or stopwatch around her neck. She is no stranger to water or tough competition, and spends much of her time on a pool deck, motivating the young, promising swimmers of our community.

Assistant Coach of the Lakota East/West swim teams, Cramer trains and inspires Lakota’s competitive high school swimmers. In a rather unique arrangement, the two Lakota high school swim teams compete independently, but practice together every weekday, often twice daily.

Cramer is the youngest of the four coaches and is nearest the glory days of high school competition. She definitely sees this as an advantage, as she must relate to the nearly 100 competitive male and female swimmers.

Cramer’s high school resume includes four State appearances for Lakota East High School. Highly competitive by nature, Cramer was often chosen to be the anchor in the 200 freestyle relay, demonstrating the energy and vigor required to bring in a win.

This past September, Cramer stepped way out of her comfort zone, and faced a starting block of a different sort: the Alcatraz Invitational. Inspired by family members who had completed the swim, and another who was set to make an attempt, she put aside her apprehension about the extreme event. Cramer embraced the one-and-a-quarter-mile open water swim across San Francisco Bay.

It was an ambitious move, and a finish of which to be proud. Not even convicted felons who escaped the walls of Alcatraz managed to successfully make the swim across the Bay. Nearly 600 swimmers take up the challenge annually, sponsored by a long-standing swim club in San Francisco.

Far from the safe confines of a natatorium, Alcatraz swimmers face temperatures in the 40-60 degree range, and typically opt to wear wetsuits. The current is swift, even on a calm day. It’s not easy.

Cramer is typically a sprinter, and not necessarily an endurance swimmer.

“The distance wasn’t as intimidating as not being able to see through the open water,” she says.

Customary for Cramer, she pushed herself beyond her personal doubts and anxiety, up to the very minute she jumped into the water.

Head Coach for Lakota Swimming Dennis Beck knows Cramer well. When asked about Cramer’s successful swim at Alcatraz, Beck explains, “She has natural athletic talent, and is a goal-setter in her athletic life, applying hard work to meet her goals.”

In addition to raw determination, Cramer admits the encouragement from people who believed in her also played a valuable role as the event loomed.

Her parents had accompanied her to California, offering moral support from shore. She even acknowledges a man at the beginning of the race who helped launch the swimmers from the boat at “The Rock.” His tough words gave her the last piece of encouragement she needed as she jumped into the chilly waters of the Bay.

Looking back fondly at her accomplishment, Cramer recalls the surreal site of the Golden Gate Bridge on one side, the Bay Bridge on the other and the San Francisco skyline in between. She had been advised to take the time to enjoy this spectacular perspective, a unique gift to those who take this crazy leap of faith.

Cramer suspects she may take on Alcatraz again one day. In the meantime, she will continue as a high school swim coach, and spend her summers at Windwood Pool, serving as Assistant Manager and swimming instructor. In the fall she will continue her college studies at Miami University, Oxford, and soon realize her dream of becoming an elementary school teacher.

Cramer is adamant that through her experiences in her early years as a swim team coach, she eventually recognized her affinity for working with young children.

“I found fulfillment and success by assisting with the smaller things, like coaching the six-and-unders at Lakota Hills pool,” explains Cramer. She recalls fondly the excitement on the faces of new swimmers she instructed as they make it across the pool.

Cramer is known as a dynamic athlete and coach, one who can be influential with swimmers of any age. She is most certainly a powerful anchor in our community, paying forward to local athletes her enthusiasm for hard work and determination.

Coach Beck explains, “Abbey provides leadership as a swim coach, and as a swimmer. She has an impact doing what she’s doing.” He adds, “Through coaching, she has found her ideal role as teacher, leader and motivator.”