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Pandemic clinches the decision - one more year of high-school it is

Local swimmer and Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School senior Bella Mastroianni had already given some thought to the possibility of doing a "victory lap", opting to return to high-school for a fifth year of studies.

The current pandemic just moved that thought much more to the forefront.

The 17 year-old product of the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club and talented triathlete confirmed this week her decision to hold off on committing to a post-secondary institution for the 2020-2021 season.

"It was always in the back of my mind, the possibility of doing a victory lap," said Mastroianni. "But throughout high-school, I remember thinking that I wanted to get school done as fast as I can. Then the whole pandemic hit, and I thought it might be best for me to return."

The opportunity to train one more year under SLSC head coach Dean Henze, the all-too-common uncertainty over a definite line of studies and career path, and the ability to enjoy an extra year of high-school athletics all factored into the decision, beyond the hundreds of questions that were raised by the arrival of Covid-19.

"It looks like next year all universities will be on-line," she continued. "I would rather if my first year was not on-line, I would prefer to actually enjoy my first year in person. The extra year gives me a little more time to think of what I want to do - but I'm definitely a homebody."

In fact, the local swimming rumour mill certainly had Mastroianni leaning towards remaining in Sudbury and joining coach Phil Parker and the Laurentian Voyageurs. "I feel comfortable at home," she said.

"Staying here at Laurentian, swimming with Phil, I thought, would be a really good match with me, personally. But I am very indecisive. I've been going back and forth."

And with teammate Nina Kucheran continuing to excel at Florida State University, Mastroianni has clearly contemplated at least the possibility of pursuing her swim career south of the border.

"I personally think that whatever best fits you is what you should do," she said. "It's your career, it's your time at university. You don't want to make someone else happy, but then have a hard time going to the States, when you know that staying in Canada may have been a better option for you."

Compounding her particular situation is that Mastroianni could well enjoy greater success, in the long-term, following her dreams as a triathlete moreso than solely as a swimmer. "The ages of twenty, thirty, forty, that's where you see the majority of triathletes," she said.

"In swimming, those ages are considered old. I think as I get older, I will go straight into triathlons. But as of right now, I am still swimming, as I do enjoy swimming a lot, and I do not want to stop."

And for one more year, at least, Mastroianni will compete as a member of the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club, without having to worry about a dual affiliation with the university of her choice.

Orendorff and Associates