‘Water baby’ indeed: Former LHS swimming star to compete in Olympic trials

Ann Reaney remembers well the day she took baby Emma home from the hospital.

“I went to the sink to wash off her head because it was ick,” Ann said. “I held the back of her head and used the sprayer, and her head rolled back, and she was just happy as a clam. I knew right then she was going to be a water baby. She just loved it.”

She didn’t know that as a teenager Emma would for the second time compete in the Olympic trials after a record-breaking freshman season at Notre Dame.

Emma’s mom was no water baby. Her dad, Mark Reaney, a professor of in the department of Theater and Film and an award-winning scenic designer, figures out ways to incorporate computer graphics into theatre designs, not ways to program his daughter into an elite swimmer.

“I’m so thankful they don’t really know swimming,” Emma said of her parents. “When I was younger, I would have an awful race, and they’d be right there saying, ‘Good job. That was great.’ Some other parents would yell at their kids.”

Wait, hold on a minute. There are swim parents who get too wrapped up in the performance of their children?

“It’s so sad,” said Emma, who competed as a sophomore at Lawrence High, broke records, but missed the state meet because of strep throat. “There are some crazy swim parents, kind of like dance moms.”

You mean there are some mothers who pressure their daughters to try to become the next Shirley Temple, Ginger Rogers or Madonna? This all comes as such a shock.

An honorable mention All-American in the 200 individual medley, her best event, and the 100 and 200 breaststroke, Emma also qualified for the trials in the 400 IM.

Notre Dame will have seven women and 12 men, by Reaney’s count, competing in the trials in Omaha, Neb. They leave Saturday, and Reaney’s first event is Monday. She competed four years ago in Omaha as well.

“I was 15 and all alone,” she said. “I was like a lost puppy. Now I’ll have all my teammates with me, and we’re traveling with the guys’ team, too, so we’ll all be hanging out together. It will be really cool.”

Swimmers can peak early. Reaney, during her final years of club swimming, had to be wondering when she stopped setting personal bests at a rapid rate. At ND, she rattled off several and attributed it partly to lifting weights for the first time.

“And it helps training with girls who are focused and are my same speed,” she said. “In club swimming, there are a lot of younger kids, and some parents are making their kids be there. It’s so sad because it’s such a time- and money-consuming sport. If you don’t like it, why would you want to do it?”

Because your mom and/or dad has intimidated you into thinking your role in life is to let them live vicariously through you. That’s why.