METHUEN – When she was a freshman, the thoughts of trying out for the swim team were a little too scary for Ada Nicodemus, so she elected not to do it. Sophomore year she got the courage to do it and thoroughly enjoyed it. She was part of the Tewksbury/Methuen Red Rangers' team which won both the Merrimack Valley Conference Division 2 regular season and league championship meets.
At the championship meet, as a first-time competitive swimmer, she finished 30th in the entire league in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:33.6 and was 74th in the 100-meter freestyle. Earning 30th place as a first-time swimmer, as a sophomore and in a league with the likes of Andover, Chelmsford and Central Catholic is certainly impressive.
Hoping to keep that momentum going for her junior year, Nicodemus elected not to go back to the team, not because she was scared but because of schedule conflicts. Last year's swim season got moved from the fall to this past March/April as part of the Fall-2 season due to COVID-19. Between her part-time job and schoolwork, she couldn't make everything line up.
Now five months later, she is back with suit, goggles and cap, ready to go and ready to help the team any way she can.
“Ada is just a really positive kid. I was very glad when she reached out to me saying that she was coming back to the program,” said head coach Jason Smith. “I was disappointed when she didn't do it last season but I understood why she couldn't. She's just a real positive kid, who gets along with everybody. She has a real outgoing personality and she's not afraid to speak up. Those are good traits to have and she also has good leadership skills.”
Nicodemus is one of five Tewksbury residents on the team and certainly the oldest as there's a sophomore and three freshmen. Two years ago, she was part of another small group of athletes from Tewksbury and said right away she never felt like an outsider.
“It was definitely new and the first few days was scary because I didn't know anyone and all of the swimmers looked so good. But I got into it that pre-season and everyone was so welcoming so it didn't matter that I didn't do it freshman year and I was just so excited that I finally did join. It's awesome because I am meeting people that I never would have met before. It doesn't matter that we don't go to the same school, we are still super close,” she said.
Before arriving on the scene as a sophomore, Nicodemus did have some experience in the pool.
“My mom (Moira Gray) swam in high school, so she obviously got me into it and I have been swimming forever,” said Ada, also later noting that she has a brother Ian Gray, an eighth grader, “who is awesome.”
Her mom has been in her corner every step of the way.
“She loves to give me advice, sometimes when I don't want it,” said Ada with a laugh. “She's always down on the deck whenever I'm racing, whether she's supposed to be on not, and I'll get out of the water and she will tell me my time and what I need to improve on, but she's always cheering me on and supporting me.”
Getting Ada in the pool at an early age and moving onto to a club in Lowell helped her develop into the swimmer she is today. She has learned all of the strokes and all the events, but with the high school team, she basically sticks to the breaststroke.
“It's one of the more complex strokes. People either love it or hate it and I love it. It's my best stroke. If you don't have the technique down, you are not going to do well in the event. I do a lot of pacing even though it's a pretty short event. I pace myself by the yards and I make sure that on the last lap, I just go as hard as I can. I can always hear my teammates cheering me on from the sides so I definitely always have the motivation,” described Nicodemus, who is also the captain of the 2022 TMHS Girls Tennis team.
Smith added that finding people who first want to do the breaststroke is difficult enough, nevermind finding someone who is pretty good at it and willing to improve on it every chance she gets.
“Ada is primarily a breaststroker and sometimes those are hard to find. Sometimes those swimmers either get it or they don't and she gets it, but I think she's one of those kids who if you ask her to do anything, she will do it. She's not going to argue, she's not going to say no and she's just going to say 'yes coach' and give it her all,” said Smith.
After swimming, tennis and high school come to an end, Nicodemus, a National Honor Society student, who has also been active in the school's theater company, said she has a pretty good idea what she wants to do.
“If I don't swim for the college I attend, that's not going to stop me because swimming is a lifetime sport, so I don't ever see myself stopping. For college, I have looked at Holyoke, St. Lawrence and Holy Cross and I really liked Holyoke. My plan is to study General Psychology with a focus in pre-law. I have been thinking about possibly wanting to work in the government or some sort of law practice,” she said.
That sounds scary.
Not for Ada Nicodemus.