ST. CHARLES – Hannah Zimmer developed an interest in physical therapy within the past year, as the practice benefited her recovery from swimming-related injuries.
Overuse of her shoulder and back muscles sent the St. Charles North senior into a pattern of “positive results and positive experiences” with physical therapists. Next year, Zimmer plans to study kinesiology at Illinois-Chicago on her way to pursuing her PT certification in graduate school.
Until then, Zimmer is content to comfort the North Stars in other ways, namely as a captain and mentor for a young group eyeing a breakthrough at Saturday’s St. Charles East Sectional.
“She’s been really inspirational,” sophomore Monica Guyett said. “When we’re having tough days, just having us focus on what we’re doing and focus on the basics instead of, like, getting crazy.”
Zimmer isn’t the lone senior on North’s state series team, but among classmates including Nicole Guyett, Loriel Hutchinson and Kennedi Norris, she’s usually the most vocal.
A sectional champion in the 100-yard freestyle as a junior – Zimmer clipped then-St. Charles East senior Mary Snyder, 53.17 seconds to 53.19 – Zimmer was unable to advance out of the state prelims in the event.
Instead of channeling all her energy inwardly, Zimmer, taking stock of an emerging sophomore class that also features Serena Allendorfer, Grace Samuelson and Samantha Sauer, spread things around.
By helping others get acclimated with varsity pacing and workouts, Zimmer found she was focusing just enough on herself without tacking on too much pressure.
“We’re really like a family on this team,” Zimmer said. “I try to include everyone and make everyone feel welcome and just get to know everyone as much as possible.”
State series practices lend themselves to more of the same.
With the North Stars scaling back their roster and daily yardage in the coming weeks, the team blends out-of-pool activities such as a team dinner later this week. In addition to eating together, athletes will paint their nails in school colors and exchange “Secret Starfish” (think “Secret Santa”) goodies.
“Getting more rest and kind of focusing in more on your specific events is obviously beneficial to your performance at the end of the season,” Zimmer said. “And just having more time in a more intimate setting with the team is definitely a really cool experience.”
Zimmer was equally enthused about her official visit to Illinois-Chicago in October. She began corresponding with Flames swimming coaches during the summer, and the dialogue resumed despite an overuse injury to Zimmer’s back during club season.
Zimmer verbally committed to swim at the school last week.
“Choosing UIC, I think, shows her maturity,” North coach Rob Rooney said.”You get a lot of kids that want to run away to big-name schools or whatever it is, but when you look at what your personal goals are in life and you find a place such as UIC which has got a very solid academic program and a very solid swim program … it just says a lot about her demeanor and her inner ability to really see what’s important, and prioritize. And she’s done a great job of that.”