BY SAMANTHA ELLIOTT
While the 200 Individual Medley swimmers do their thing in the water, Jamie Benson prepares for her own race. Float On by Modest Mouse drifts through her ear buds as she strokes her finger across the penny in the right side pocket of her parka. Then, she does what her coach calls her “dance;” a jumping up and down routine to warm up for her turn in the waters. When she climbs onto the blocks — before the official tells swimmers to take their mark — she wiggles her fingers and grabs the block.
The routines and superstitions may seem like a lot, even too much for some, but for Grosse Ile’s Benson, it works. After all, although Benson lives on the island, her name is no stranger to local swim teams.
Benson, a junior at Grosse Ile High School, holds six records at four local pools. At her home pool, Benson’s name is in the record books for the 200 medley relay, the 200 free relay and the 50 free. At Riverview’s pool, she holds the 200 free record. Over in Allen Park, she’s on the 200 medley relay record and down in Dundee, she’s got the 200 free relay and the 50 free records.
Benson is fresh off an MHSAA state finals appearance where the Red Devils finished 18th as a team. Individually, she led the way with her ninth-place finish in the 50 free with a time of 24.74. She also finished 14th in the 100 fly and was on the 13th place 200 medley relay and the 14th place 200 free relay.
“The state meet is so much fun,” she said. “There’s so much great competition and I’ve met some really cool people who have stayed my friends for the past three years. When you make states, it’s an amazing feeling (and) it makes all the hard work you’ve put in worth it.”
Benson’s success comes after a decade of swimming. She started when she was 6 with the Wyandotte Wildcats and started at the Trenton Swim Club when she moved to Grosse Ile. She kept swimming simply because she loves the sport and loves the water.
“I can’t stay out of the water for more than a week or I get a little stir crazy,” Benson said. “My mom always says that I was built to be a swimmer and me and the water are a perfect pair.”
Benson’s favorite event is the 50 free for the rush and the memories.
“It’s short and sweet and the biggest adrenaline you’ll ever get,” she said. “My favorite race in my career would be breaking my 50 free varsity record last year and again this year at our Huron League championship meet.”
When it comes to relays, Benson says it gets tougher.
“The biggest difference between my individuals and my relays I think are that I get more nervous for my relays,” she said. “I always want and strive to do my best for my team, so there is more pressure to compete well.”
There is also the pressure of simply being a student-athlete. Along with a committed swimming schedule, Benson is also part of Grosse Ile’s Spanish Club and on the school’s yearbook.
“Being a student-athlete is tough no doubt, so the best way I stay on top of everything is I study a little bit everyday when I can,” she said.
But at the end of the day, Benson tells herself she can always keep going.
“Even when your muscles are tired and telling you to stop and take a break, I tell myself, no you can do harder, you can go faster,” she said.
Her parents are a big factor in her motivation.
“My dad always says it’s all mental and no mind before a race because I tend to over think and get too nervous,” she said. “My parents are another huge motivating force in my swimming career.
“They come to all my meets and they believe in me and push me to be the best I can be.”
Benson is equally as supportive to younger swimmers and encourages them to stick with the sport.
“Swimming truly is the best sport,” she said. “It will stay with you your entire life and just don’t give up; you can always get better if you stick with it and work hard.”
Now, Benson turns her sights to one final year in the Grosse Ile waters.
“Next season I am very excited to see what myself and my team are capable of accomplishing,” she said. “I am hoping to drop some time and just take senior year out with a bang.”