Hannah Parson has continued to set the bar higher for herself.
She started swimming as a 4-year-old, and at 6 was swimming competitively in Monterey. At 8, she and twin sister, Sarah, completed the Alcatraz to San Francisco crossing together and did it again the following year. They even did the more difficult, 1.25 mile route, which forces swimmers to fight the currents before landing at Aquatic Park. The easier route is 2.1 miles and goes with the current.
“People forget to take into account how gnarly the currents are between Alcatraz and the Bay,” Parson said. “When we were 8, we didn’t know anything about that.”
The pair have continued the tradition, completing the swim two more times since in high school and conquering the strong ebbs that whirl around the island. The last time the twins completed the swim, they crossed the finish line holding hands. It was unplanned Parson said, but they found each other at the end because of “some twin telepathy” and because they didn’t want to fight about bragging rights.
A move to Arroyo Grande from Monterey put swimming on hold for a few years. But Parson rediscovered swimming entering high school. She wonders where she would be if she hadn’t taken a break but says it was for the best.
“It ended up making me really love the sport again,” she said. “And I’m just so thankful.”
Her love for the sport led to her being named the youngest Arroyo Grande team captain under head coach Claudia Souder as a sophomore, and again as a junior. Souder says that Parson has the skill of being able to connect with her peers, both old and young.
Parson also had CIF-consideration times in all eight events this year, which was a goal for her, and swam in both the 100 and 200 free at the CIF-Southern Section meet. She also anchors the 4x50 relay and the 4x100 free relay teams. For her accomplishments, Parson has been named The Tribune’s 2016 San Luis Obispo County Girls Swimmer of the Year.
“Goals are reached and new goals are set,” said Souder, who completed her 27th year as head coach this past year. “Just a smart athlete, she knows what it takes. She’s a true student of the sport, and it’s fun to be around.”
Parson hopes next year to have one of the top-eight qualifying times for CIF in her favorite events, the 100 and 200 free.
Parson offsets her six-day-a-week, two-times-a-day training schedule with the San Luis Obispo Seahawks with open-ocean state life guarding in Oceano and volunteering on mission trips through her church. Parson is one of the youngest life guards, passing the academy test at 16 years old.
“You kind of have to have a balance with swim as a sport and other things in your life,” she said. “That way not all your energy and your whole mentality is just swim. You find it in other things, too.”
Her trips through her church have taken her to helping kids in the Dominican Republic and Portland, Oregon, in addition to local trips. Although Parson likes to travel, she doesn’t see herself going too far for college, which will be a decision she makes next year. Colleges have already come calling, but Parson said “I’m thinking that since we live in such a beautiful place, I’m going to want to stay local.”
Wherever she ends up after her senior season — which she hopes to end “with a bang” — it’s sure to be close to water.
“I love swimming, but I love the water itself more, that’s why I became a state lifeguard,” she said. “That aspect of being in a different element is so rad.”