She remembers feeling a little tired that February day, the pool lanes rolling like an assembly line with rows of powerful swimmers.
Alex Pierovich would have preferred taking a day off, the Land O’Lakes standout a little worn at this point in the club season.
“I wasn’t excited about going to practice,” Pierovich said. “I sucked it up.”
She started off the blocks doing 50-yard butterflies. She was second in her lane.
An oncoming boy, larger and stronger than Pierovich, thrashed through the water as she began her lap. Then came the crash.
“His arm came into my lane and hit my arm,” Pierovich said. “That’s how he broke it.”
The boy’s arm crossed the lane rope and with full force met Pierovich’s arm, similar to a head-on collision.
Pierovich swam to the side of the pool using her legs and her good arm to tell her coach.
“He had never been exposed to an injury like that,” Pierovich said. “He thought I bruised it. He wanted me to keep swimming, so I did. It wasn’t easy.”
After practice, Pierovich learned at a hospital the two bones in her arm had been cleanly broken.
“By the time I was in the doctor’s everything was just numb,” Pierovich said. “I think that’s why I was able to finish practice; I was in shock and in pain. I couldn’t feel anything anymore.”
In the coming months Pierovich would have to overcome not only injury, but a newfound fear of the water.
Pierovich moved from Colorado with her family just before freshman year at Land O’Lakes.
From the start, she was elite. Today she is ranked No. 1 in her junior class. She also is arguably the best girls swimmer for the Gators.
Her mother, Erica, is happy to point out a laundry list of accomplishments. They include her daughter’s role in the national honor society and her effort to establish the first national science honor society at Land O’Lakes.
A passion for Pierovich has been her volunteer work toward the preservation of sea turtles in the Panhandle.
“She has all these other things going on,” Erica said. “She gets hurt, but she’s still driving.”
Many things had come easily for Pierovich, so returning to the pool would be a true test.
Pierovich wore a waterproof cast for eight weeks, which almost completely covered her arm. She worked on her kicking using a kick board, which turned out to be a benefit. Pierovich had always lacked significant leg strength, so focusing on kicking seemed to make her a stronger swimmer.
She returned to camp in Tallahassee with the goal of competing in the senior championships in July. Camp turned out to be the toughest workouts of her life, breaking her down.
She had no choice but to continue.
“A lot of the kids I was keeping up with before were beating me in practice,” Pierovich said. “It was hard to stay motivated when I lost so much. I knew I couldn’t get better if I accepted they were better than me and stopped working hard.”
Her determination paid off with her success at the senior championships where she swam six events and set five personal records.
Pierovich swam the 100 breaststroke, the 200 breaststroke, the 200 individual medley, the 100 butterfly, the 200 butterfly and the 100 backstroke, reaching the final in each race.
“What she did swim in senior champs was a great accomplishment in itself,” Erica said. “With the amount of time she was in the water, she was great.”
Said Pierovich, “I definitely think even though I’ve had times when it’s hard to push through, especially with swimming, I have continued to do well. In school I have managed to keep straight As, even in the hard classes. I’ve been able to juggle school with swimming quite well. I think I’m a role model to other people.”