Amanda Wilson had her next four years all planned out.
As one of the top girls swimmers in San Luis Obispo County, Wilson was recruited by the University of Hawaii, and following her senior year at Templeton High School planned to join the Rainbow Warriors swim team.
But on Jan. 6, on a winding back road in North County, everything changed.
Wilson’s friend since kindergarten, Shelby Sudbrink, died that morning when she lost control of her Toyota 4Runner and crashed into a tree. Her death shocked many on the Central Coast and hit Wilson especially hard just as the swim season was about to begin.
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“Shelby was always so excited to come to my meets and be a part of my swimming,” Wilson said this week. “Her loss has a huge impact on everything I do now.”
From that moment, her her priorities changed.
Swimming was no longer the serious endeavor it once was. Wilson just wanted to have fun.
Yet somehow she was able to fight through the pain, maintain her positive attitude and go on to have her best season. Wilson became the only girls swimmer in the county and the first in Templeton High School history to advance to the CIF State Meet after qualifying in the 100 butterfly.
For her accomplishments, Wilson is The Tribune 2017 County Girls Swimmer of the Year.
Negative to a Positive
Following Sudbrink’s death, Wilson stepped away from the pool for a few weeks and reevaluated her life. When she returned, she brought with her the qualities that has always made her one of the team leaders.
“She was counseling kids,” said Templeton swim coach Karen Neil, who has coached Wilson since she was a freshman. “A lot of kids were having a really tough time, and she was talking them though it. ... She is one of the most positive people I know.”
Wilson dominated Los Padres League competition during the season and made sure to enjoy every meet.
“Being in the water was my complete escape from it all. That’s why I needed to have fun with it,” Wilson said.
Wilson finished fifth in the 100 butterfly and the 100 freestyle at the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 Championships. Her time of 57.0 in the fly earned her a historic trip to the state meet.
“I barely missed (qualifying for state) last year. I was so relieved to qualify,” Wilson said.
She finished 35th with a time of 57.73 at state, but more importantly, Wilson said, she didn’t get caught up in trying to win.
“It was the end of my competing for a while,” Wilson said. “I just wanted to build strong connections with teammates knowing I wasn’t going to see them again for a while.”
Despite another strong season and recruiting interest, Wilson won’t join the swim team at Hawaii. At least not this fall.
“I just decided that I just wanted more time,” Wilson said. “I don’t see a huge need to go off to college right away.”
Instead, Wilson said she plans to take a gap year and hopes to travel. Whether that means backpacking Europe or just exploring California, she doesn’t know yet. But she will never be far from the pool, and thoughts of her friend will never be far from her mind.
“I am not going to stop swimming. I still want to swim in college,” Wilson said. “I have had a lot of stuff go on in the past year, and I just need more time.”