EASTHAM — There is a calmness about the way Erin McFarland glides through the water. There is no panic. There is no wasted movement. There is just a desire to be doing what she loves. It’s meditative and therapeutic.
“Swimming is something that I’ve been doing since I was in kindergarten,” says McFarland, a Nauset High School sophomore who lives in Orleans. “It’s something that I’m passionate about and it keeps me being me. It’s been such a big part of my life since forever.
“It’s been great to be able to travel and be part of the team,” she adds. “We’ve been able to get back into a normal groove after Covid, having practices and more meets. Being able to travel has been the greatest experience. It’s mostly swimming, but a lot of it is the team part.”
The 16-year-old has had a long journey to return to the pool at Willy’s Gym in North Eastham, having come back to Cape Cod from Germany, where she lived from 2016 to 2021 before starting her freshman year at Nauset.
While abroad, McFarland competed against swimmers from all over Europe. She swam in the 2012 Olympic Pool at the London Aquatics Centre and traveled to the Netherlands on numerous occasions for events.
“It’s just new,” she says when asked how high school athletics differs from her earlier experiences. “Here, it’s a lot of hardcore swimming, getting great times and now really pushing myself to get into collegiate swimming. I may not be the fastest person out there, but the sport has been such a big part of my life that I hope to be able to continue to have the escape of swimming.”
McFarland has had a lot of success already this season for the unbeaten Nauset girls team, including victories at the Cape and Islands Relays and the Cape Cod Classic. She recently notched a win in the 400-yard freestyle relay at the Classic and has already won two heats of the 200-yard freestyle and one heat of the 500-yard freestyle in dual meets.
“The 500 is my personal favorite — it’s the one I swim at every single meet,” says McFarland. “I love the aspect of being able to be in the water and be calm the entire time and to not have to stress about how fast I’m going.”
She’s proud that, despite the cutthroat nature of the sport, the Warriors have created a welcoming culture where anybody can join the team without judgment — whether or not they’re among the fastest swimmers. Everyone has a chance to compete and be part of the team.
Regardless of the team’s success over the next two years, McFarland hopes to leave a positive mark on the program long-term.
“I hope to set a good example for younger swimmers so when they are in my shoes they can look back and remember the fun times they had,” she says. “Even though it’s a sport, it’s all about the team and how you treat others.”