Love of swimming drives Sherando’s Ferguson

Sherando swimmer Laura Ferguson practices in the indoor pool at the War Memorial Building in Winchester. Ferguson has already qualified for the state meet in the 50 freestyle. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — Laura Ferguson endures a lot, but it’s all worth it.

The Sherando senior swimmer has had to battle through tendonitis in her knee, and deal with severe asthma, but she won’t let it stop her from doing what she loves most — swimming.

“I could talk forever about swimming,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t think I’d grow so attached to it. I just love it.”

Ferguson started swimming when she was in Japan, where she lived for eight years, while her father was stationed there with the Marines.

Her family moved to this area before her freshman year at Sherando. Ferguson said she didn’t take swimming seriously until she joined Sherando’s swim club team and became hooked. Ferguson said she loves the mental side of the sport.

Sherando Laura Ferguson takes a break during practice in the indoor pool at the War Memorial Building in Winchester. Ferguson is on the verge of qualifying for states in three different events. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I always try to push myself,” Ferguson said. “It’s always a mind game. That’s how I like to think about it — no pain, no gain.”

The pain this season has in part come from the tendonitis in her knee.

Sherando coach Joe Knight said he was worried earlier in the season about Ferguson’s injury.

“I was really concerned, because literally she was in a knee brace and swimming in the pool at the same time,” Knight said. “And if push had come to shove, she was prepared to [race] in that brace. I was very concerned and I know that she was equally frustrated as well. She seems to have worked through that. She’s adapted very well, and she’s just training extremely well right now.”

Ferguson’s battle with asthma is a constant one. She said she just developed severe asthma after moving to the area.

“I have four asthma inhalers constantly on me, in my car, my house,” Ferguson said. “I’ve had three asthma attacks my whole life and they’re not fun to have. … I know that I have the capability of pushing myself, but it’s just I have to stop at those times [when I feel out of breath].”

Ferguson is constantly in the pool. She said she works at Valley Health Wellness and Fitness Center as a lifeguard in Winchester, and tries to swim before and after work each day.

Knight said when practice was canceled earlier this week that he met Ferguson at Valley Health for a workout.

“Before I even got there she had already swam 1,500 meters, and my workout for the day was another 3,000 on top of that,” Knight said. “And she just went through that workout without one word. Just steady work, work, work. I think that says it all about Laura.”

Knight said he could tell when he first met Ferguson before she was a freshman at Sherando that she had potential.

“She has the physical attributes to be a quality swimmer,” Knight said. “She didn’t have the experience. She didn’t have the conditioning, and she didn’t have the training. It’s a credit to her and her work ethic that she’s come as far as she has come without the benefit of any virtual year-round training at all. She’s pretty much done it all on her own.”

Last year, Ferguson began to see the hard work really pay off. She was part of Sherando’s record-breaking 200-yard medley relay team, and placed 10th in the state in the 50 freestyle.

This season, Ferguson qualified for the state swim meet in the 50 freestyle in her very first meet. She’s also just 1.5 seconds from qualifying in the 100 backstroke and the just a half-second from qualifying in the 100 freestyle.

“We’ve always known that she’s a good 100-yard freestyler, but now she’s really starting to come into her own the last couple weeks in the 100 backstroke,” Knight said. “We’ve been working very hard with her on that stroke and conditioning.”

Knight said if she can qualify in all three events, they will have to pick which ones for her to race at the Group 4A state meet. Swimmers can only participate in two individual events.

Ferguson said she loves the 50 freestyle the best because of the “speed.” She said her goal is to get her time down to 23 seconds, her current best time is 26.09, at the state meet and of course to win the state title.

Ferguson currently has the best time in four of the eight individual categories in the area, and is also on all three Sherando relay teams.

The Warriors are young this season, and Knight said that Ferguson has been a great leader.

“The thing about Laura is she’s always willing to help out,” Knight said. “She’s always willing to offer advice and counsel any swimmer who ever approaches her and asks for it. So, in that regard, there again, she’s just another valuable asset to our team.”

Ferguson said one of her goals after this season is to swim in college, and Knight said he really hopes she gets the opportunity.

“I’ve told her in order to do that she’s going to have to continue working as hard as she has been,” Knight said. “That’s another big step up for her to swim at that level. I think if anyone is really deserving of it it’s really Laura, because she puts in the extra time, the extra effort.

“Her whole life is about swimming — it really is.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com