METHUEN — When she was five years old, Callie Legvold was getting some swim lessons from one of her neighbors. She came home and asked her mother if she could join a swim team. "I don't think there's a swim team for five-year-olds," Callie recalled her mother saying, "but sure enough there was one at the Billerica Boys and Girls Club. I've been swimming there ever since," explained Callie.
From five years old until now as a senior on the Tewksbury/Methuen Co-Ed/Co-Op Swim team, Callie has spent a large portion of her life in the pool, something she absolutely loves doing. And back in late October of last year, it was while she was just about to get out of the pool after finishing the grueling 500-meter freestyle event, when all of those hours and hours of hard work and dedication in the water, all made a difference.
Before that day and throughout the entire season, she knew what the qualifying time was in the 500-meters in order to qualify for her first ever sectional meet. In her previous meet, she finished with a time of 6:07.95 when she helped the Red Rangers defeat Lowell to capture their first ever combined MVC Division 2 League Championship Title.
Legvold prepared for the 500-race like she always does, got into the water, and put forth a tremendous effort. As she finished the race, she knew — she did it. She got out of the water and looked at the clock and she finished at 6:01.11, which qualified her for the sectionals the following week. That performance went into the program's record book as she became the first individual from Tewksbury to qualify for an individual event at the sectionals.
"Qualifying for sectionals was such a huge deal for me," she said. "I was so excited and it was something I had been working towards for the previous two seasons. Finally being able to do it meant so much. When I got out of the pool and everyone realized what had happened, everyone was just so supportive and so happy for me, so it was so great."
Legvold finished 15th in the entire conference in the 500 with her 6:01.11 time and in addition she was also 20th in the 200 at 2:16.13, was part of the 14th place 400-meter free relay team and part of the 15th place 200-free relay team. She was a huge reason why the Red Rangers captured both the MVC Division 2 regular season title and also the MVC D2 Championship Meet title.
"Last year was such a great year and we just had so much fun," she said. "I really enjoyed it and it was just such a great environment to be a part of. We just all had so much fun together. We all got along really well. I think it's going to the same way this year, but we're still getting to know one another. It just takes a little time."
Legvold is starting her fourth year with the co-op program and said although the first few days were a little rough when she was a shy little ninth grader.
"Oh definitely (it was intimidating)," she said. "It's scary being from Tewksbury and coming into a new environment where everyone is pretty much from Methuen and not knowing really anybody."
But quickly that changed. She became good friends with the Methuen swimmers as well as the older Tewksbury kids including Sydney Menard, Emma White, Meredith Chase and Alyssa Anderson to name a few.
"I love them all so much. They are all among my favorite people. I see Alyssa around school sometimes, but the others are now in college, but I love and miss all of them," she said.
After swim season is over and Legvold eventually graduates from TMHS in June, she is going to defer to college for a year because she will be going to the Army Reserves.
"It's just something that I have always thought about doing," she said. "When I met my recruiter I thought that this is something that I could actually do and it would make a difference."
Legvold enjoys sciences and biology, and wanted to get into a career where she could help people.
"I just have always thought 'what's something that I can do that would make the most impact?' and then I decided I wanted to do something in the medical field so I thought that I could become a combat medic and help the soldiers who fight for us," she said.
After she graduates from TMHS, she will attend 'Boot Camp' and then 'Combat Medical Training' and then go to college but will remain in the reserves for eight years. Having that competitive spirit has been something that she has always had and she said some of that credit goes to her brother Cam, who had a terrific baseball career at TMHS and is now playing at Nichols College.
"My brother and I have always been very competitive," she said. "We played baseball together for a few years and then he swam for a few years so it was always like 'who is going to win'. Even though we are two years apart, we will have that competitiveness."
Callie knows all about competing — after all she participates in four events almost every meet, which is certainly not easy.
"She's worked very hard to get where she is," said M/T head coach Jason Smith. "It's not something where she stepped into the water and started to break records and that kind of thing, which is the case for a lot of these kids. They really work hard trying to improve every single year and they try to build on what they had done the previous year. She's a hard worker, she has battled through some injuries part way through her career."
Legvold had a tremendous season last year but certainly doesn't have any plans on ending it there. She once again spent hours and hours in the pool over this past summer.
"Callie has worked extremely hard since she's been here. She is the first (athlete from) Tewksbury as an individual to qualify for an event in sectionals or state,” said Smith. “Obviously we hope to pick up where she left off last year, swimming some distance freestyle for us.
“She did a real good job swimming the 200 and the 500 for us last year. I know she has worked a lot this summer at Russell Mill to improve on her other strokes as well, to be as well-rounded as she can be. I know she is going to be a big part of what we're going to do this season.
"Callie is very critical of her own stroke and her own performances. She constantly wants to get better and that's all you can ask for. They have to be motivated by something and we try to do our best to motivate from the outside so a lot of that has to come internally and she does a really good job of setting goals for herself and shooting for those goals. That's what helped her get to where she was last year and I know she's excited about her senior year."
She does have at least one goal for this upcoming season.
"To the state meet," Callie said. "I need a 5:45 time to qualify and my best time last year was 5:55, so I think I can do it."