A summer league program at the age of four was the perfect introduction to swimming for Gabriella Graves.
“My parents wanted me to get used to the water,” says Graves. “I just continued to love the sport. I really looked up to my older brothers, who swam as well.”
The Rosary Academy senior swims the 200-meter individual medley as well as the 100-meter butterfly for the Royals. She has a particular love for the IM, as it allows her to excel in all four strokes. But aside from which events she races, it’s the overall experience of competing as a team that keeps her engaged in the sport.
“My favorite thing about swimming is definitely the memories I make and the teammates I have on the team,” says the 17-year-old. “It’s really fun to keep coming back with the same people…Even though swimming is an individual sport, I feel more on a team here.”
And it’s her teammates that benefit from her presence, as Graves makes an intentional effort to help her fellow Royals be their best.
“Gabriella is a leader for us and takes time every meet to make sure to help her teammates become better,” says Rosary head swim coach, Rory Bevins. “Often before meets, she will sit with the newer swimmers and help them with their dives.”
A varsity swimmer since her freshman year, Bevins also sees Graves as a standout in her approach to competition.
“Gabriella is an absolute pro when it comes to swimming,” says Bevins. “She has a mental toughness that is fun to watch as she gets into a race and makes a point to beat the girls next to her. There is nothing like watching her swim in a close race. She will not let herself lose and gives everything she has.”
Graves has a heart for serving others and spends her time outside of the pool leading her classmates on campus as a member of both ASB and Campus Ministry.
“I really enjoy being a leader on campus and trying to help my peers at Rosary have the best high school experience possible,” says Graves.
Additionally, the Tustin resident is an alter server at her parish, where she finds it fun to “incorporate my faith as well as being a leader.”
Learning how to push herself and continually set goals are among the life lessons Graves has taken from the pool. She aims to swim in college as well as study to be a nurse or a speech therapist, keeping God at the center of both swimming and life, something she learned from one of her most influential mentors, her grandmother.
“My biggest role model in my life is my grandma because she always kept her faith at the center of everything she did,” says Graves. “She always gave 100 percent to everything.”