By Eva Mandelbaum
Two students, Claire Weinstein and Alexa Reyna, from our very own White Plains High School and Highlands Middle School, are just one step away from the incredible, world-renowned Olympics.
The Olympics originated as an athletic competition between the city-states of Greece to celebrate human achievement. Initially, it only consisted of foot races, but over time evolved to include wrestling, boxing, javelin and discus throwing, long jumping, and chariot races.
Starting in 776 B.C., the games were held every four years at Olympia. Beginning in 472 B.C., the games were held over five-days. Then, in A.D. 393, the Greek Olympics came to an end because a Christian Roman Emperor banned them as pagan exercises. Thankfully, the games were revived fifteen hundred years later, when Pierre de Coubertin was inspired by the ideals of the ancient Greeks. The first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896. They continued every four years, leading to the 339 events, featuring 33 different sports (swimming, of course being one of them) and representing nearly 200 countries in the Olympics known and loved by us today.
Who better than two accomplished young swimmers from White Plains to potentially carry on this prominent tradition? Alexa Reyna (9th grade) and Claire Weinstein (8th grade) are a prime example of why The Olympics came to be: to celebrate and show what people are capable of. Claire qualified for the Olympic tryouts in the 400 free LCM with a time of 4:15.29 and in the 800 free LCM with a time of 8:45.34, and Alexa qualified in the 400 free LCM with a 4:16.67, and with a time of 16:48.18 for the 1500 LCM.
Alexa and Claire are teammates at the Westchester Aquatics Club. Alexa qualified for the Olympic trials last year but due to COVID, it has been pushed to this summer, meaning she will be competing in the French trials this summer, while Claire will be trying out for the US in Omaha.
As competitive as swimming can be, the two teammates and friends have been cheering each other on for years. As Alexa shared, “Me and Claire always have been at the same point for swimming so we always [encourage] each other to get better. And since we’re both distance swimmers it’s just great to have someone else that is your speed and it’s just nice to travel with someone like her.” This sense of sportsmanship is mutual, as Claire explained, “...it’s cool because we’re kind of at the same place in making times so we’ve always been going together and it’s good to keep each other motivated and pushing for new goals.”
Alexa and Claire’s significant accomplishments do not always come easily, especially more recently in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the Pandemic, the swimmers were practicing for about 2- 2 ½ hours every day. This time has recently been reduced to about an hour and 45 minutes 6 or 7 days a week. Not only have their practice times been cut down, but their meets as well. Claire explained, “The pandemic has definitely cut our meets down a lot. It’s kind of nerve-racking because they don’t really announce anything until a few weeks before.” Alexa elaborated on how frustrating it sometimes feels, "It's the worst part where they could cancel a whole meet a week before and it’s just so hard because you know, you train for so long and you just realize that you can’t even put all that work into the next meet you’re going to.”
With the Pandemic still on the rise, there are fears of another cancelation of the trials this summer, but the Olympic Trials Organizing Committee seems to be doing everything in their power to keep the chances of the trials taking place alive. According to a trial announcement released on December 16, 2020, they shared, “The health and safety of all athletes, coaches and all others involved in the Trials is of paramount concern to the event organizers. This will play a critical role in our decision-making process.”
They plan to have the Trials in a single venue. “It is a critical priority that we select the best Olympic Team possible for the Olympic Games in Tokyo next July.” The Olympic Trials Organizing Committee are currently evaluating the number of athletes that will attend the Trials, and are thoughtfully making decisions related to spectators, the qualification period, and other safety precautions that will be initiated to ensure the tryouts will be safe.
These young women are an inspiration to all people, but they are especially encouraging to young student athletes. Reyna and Weinstein show young people that kids and teens can do anything older people can.