It's been a long time since BethAnn Schwoyer has swum without pain in her shoulder. It's about four years, actually.
She remembers it starting during her sophomore season swimming at Williamsport High School. She used to swim a lot of freestyle and did a high amount of yardage in training.
It's gotten so bad now that the Lycoming College sophomore rarely strokes in practice with the Warriors. Sure, she'll try to get in on some of the workouts her teammates do. But as soon as she begins to feel pain in her shoulder, she'll give a look to head coach Jerry Hammaker and he lets her know it's OK to just kick for the rest of practice.
Schwoyer's injury is going to require surgery, and she's got it planned for just after the season for sometime in March. But she's not quite ready to give up swimming just yet. Her main two events - the 100 and 200 backstroke - put the least amount of strain on her injury, and she's able to tough out an appearance in the 50 freestyle for meets.
And despite the injury she made the finals in the 100 backstroke Saturday at the MAC Championships, and is seeded seventh in today's 200 backstroke.
"It's gotten to the point where the doctors say I need to get it taken care of because it's affecting more than just my swimming," Schwoyer said. "I went to physical therapy quite a bit in high school and when I got to (Lycoming) it continued. I've stuck with it and tried to work through it as much as I can."
Despite the injury, Schwoyer set school records last year in both the 100 and 200 backstroke events. And despite the injury, she's hoping to make a run at both records this weekend at the MAC Championships. It's an amazing accomplishment she can even contemplate reaching those numbers.
Her practice sessions consist primarily of kicking the same yardage her teammates are are fully swimming. Her practice sessions consist of working on her turns and maximizing her underwater swims. She would try to get through portions of the workout Hammaker had laid out, and the pain would start as a dull ache before eventually becoming a shooting pain.
"We started out the year knowing she'd be kicking all year. Hopefully next year we'll have her swimming all the time and training properly," Hammaker said. "It throws the whole coaching thing off. It's like a basketball coach saying you don't have to shoot during practice and you'll be fine."
Schwoyer has had one doctor tell her there was a tear in either a tendon or ligament in her shoulder, and another told her it's just really stretched out. It bothers her most while swimming, but she can feel the effects if she reaches up high for something or if she carries her books in the injured arm she'll be able to feel the pull in her shoulder after a while.
She's been in for physical therapy three to five times a week trying her best to avoid surgery. Her weight-lifting programs involved strengthening the muscles around her shoulders while focusing on getting her legs stronger.
Schwoyer said she's excited for her final two years at Lycoming just to see how much better she can be. She's already discussed the possibility of expanding what events she does beyond just the two backstroke events and the 50 freestyle. She wants to expand into longer events and multiple strokes.
"I will stick with the backstroke, most definitely, I've been swimming with them since I was 8 and that hasn't changed at all," Schwoyer said. "I'd like to try the 400 (individual medley). I did it a few times last year and I've always like the IMs. I'd like to try it again."
Despite the pain and despite the thoughts of next year already creeping into her mind, Schwoyer felt confident going into this weekend's MAC Championships. She qualified for the finals in the 100 backstroke Saturday, and the 200 final will be the third event swum during the finals today.
"We brought freshmen in this year, someone to be able to challenge her because we knew she'd be kicking (in practice) and she might fall of a bit. But there's been no fall off yet," Hammaker said. "She hasn't had a tough 200 back yet.
"We have a team tradition where we do 10,000 yards in one practice. For two years she's kicked all of those at one of the faster intervals. Without moving her arms she still keeps up. It's pretty darn amazing. A lot of people get hurt and grab a kick board and kick a little in practice. But I've often said if her shoulder fell apart she could finish the race just kicking and she'd still do pretty well."
Imagine how well she'll do when she practices like everyone else.