Sruthi Ravi can’t help but smile at the memory.
Her parents, Prasad and Haritha, took her to swim lessons when she was five-years-old, and little Sruthi wanted no part of lessons.
“I cried every time I went to practice,” she said. “The tears would be coming down. I just hated swimming back then.”
If only that little girl could see what happened since. Sruthi grew to love swimming once she joined the LaCamas HeadHunters club as an eight-year-old, and this weekend, the Mountain View High School junior heads to the WIAA state swimming championships in Federal Way for the third time.
“I knew nothing about swim meets. I just knew I would have to practice more,” she said. “What drew me was that my coaches were amazing, and my peers were good. The people I met kept me coming back and motivated me to keep going.”
Ravi booked her return trips to state last weekend at the Class 3A District 4-5 championships in Kelso, winning the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 1 minute, 0.45 seconds and finishing second in the 50 freestyle in 25.70. She also led off the district champion 200 medley relay (1:58.33) and anchored the champion 400 free relay (3:56.23) as both also qualified for state.
“Backstroke is my home, something I can always come back to,” she said. “It’s the stroke that I love. I have always had better technique in it.”
Thunder coach Mark McBride quipped, “It was either that or the breaststroke.”
Ravi laughed. “Nobody wants to see me do the breaststroke.”
While Ravi also has qualified for the 50 free in each of her first two years, she has yet to advance out of the preliminaries, and she doesn’t expect that to change this year. “The 50 free is a different ballgame,” she said. “You have to do everything perfectly – your dive, your breathing, your turn – and it’s hard to achieve that perfection.”
That’s especially true when you’re like Ravi, who loves competitive swimming but has many other outside interests tugging at her.
A 4.0 student taking five Advanced Placement classes with an eye toward studying pre-med in college, she is also vice president of the school’s Red Cross Club and participates on a regional Red Cross youth council. Ravi is also a member of Mountain View’s speech and debate team, and this year, she added Future Business Leaders of America and DECA to her already-full plate.
That leaves only so much time for Ravi to devote to swimming, and she describes herself at a crossroads in her career. She recently switched clubs to join the Columbia River Swim Team, and there’s a part of her who wants to train for Junior Nationals and swim at highly competitive meets.
Then there’s the other part that knows how much time that would take, and that there are only so many hours in the day if she wants to continue with all her academic and outside pursuits.
“It’s weird because I see these people doing well at swimming, and I say to myself, I can do that,” Ravi said. “But it takes so much effort. I’ve definitely learned the value of hard work through swimming.
“I’m finding that I’m taking a path that is taking me away from swimming, but swimming has helped me to form the values that are key to my personality. We all have our strengths, and right now, mine are split. I’m a split personality, I guess.”
McBride said he hasn’t seen too much of a change in Ravi this season.
Sruthi Ravi’s Favorite Things
TV Show: Gossip Girl
It was a good classic show, definitely a good teenager show.
Movie: Moana or Frozen
For Disney to do a movie that was out of their reach like Moana, about a different culture, was great. I saw them both with my best friend, and I have a lot of good memories from that. After Frozen, we came out and sang all the songs together.
Book: The Alchemist
You see Santiago go on such a moral and spiritual journey, and he finds symbolism in nature. It’s interesting how he does that. There are a lot of universal themes throughout the book.
School subject: Writing
Writing has been therapeutic for me. I’m so excited for this year and seeing how my writing is going to develop and grow.
Cartoon character: Jerry
It was amusing in childhood to see how he would evade Tom. It was nice to know you don’t have to be the biggest. You can be small and still dart around big figures.
Candy bar: Twix
My friends and I always have these arguments about which is the best candy. I’m a big Twix proponent. It’s not a basic candy. You have levels of complexity.
“She’s still very humble and very supportive of her teammates, which I love,” he said. “She shows up every day, works hard, and is still trying to get better.”
For that, Ravi credits her parents, each an immigrant from India, who have supported her throughout her journey, even if they don’t quite understand all the nuances of swimming. They chauffeured Ravi to all her early-morning practices and late-night meets – at least until this year, when Ravi turned 16 and earned her driver’s license – and, of course, pushed her to take those dreaded swim lessons.
“All of my success is because of them,” she said. “My Indian culture is so rich, grounding roots that I can always come back to. And the community has been so supportive, it’s amazing. In swimming, that’s so important.”
As Ravi surveys her crossroads, deciding which she’ll travel down – dive headfirst into swimming, or come up for air and enjoy a more well-rounded life – she heads up the road to the King County Aquatics Center for another trip to state.
Her goal, she said, is to advance to finals in as many events as possible. The psych sheets make her the No. 7 seed in the 100 back, but well back in the 50 free. Both the medley relay and freestyle relay teams also figure to be challenged to make the B finals.
But even if her times coming into the meet aren’t where she’d like them to be, Ravi is excited about the challenge. At districts, she switched up her pre-meet routine – loading some Bollywood music on her phone, popping in the earphones, and letting the music carry her back.
“It didn’t matter about my times any more,” she said. “I was there with my friends, having fun, and all the rest of it fell away. It was the same feeling I had when I first fell in love with the sport.”