EAST BREMERTON — Klahowya senior Mason Heaman began his high school swimming career with all the potential, talent and passion one could ask for in an athlete.
Heaman’s dream to swim in college was starting to slip through his fingers.
His love and passion for the sport, his work ethic, are all still there, but, Heaman admits his past immaturity in not taking time off to heal properly forced him to realize the dream is now gone.
“I always had this mentality that I was going on to bigger things in swimming,” Heaman said. “Since I was eight it was ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ A swimmer. ‘What interests you?’ Swimming. That’s it. So it’s been really hard figuring out that next step.”
The injuries stalled his progress, and he believes limited his opportunities at the next level. Heaman is now on the journey of figuring out what his next passion in life will be.
Heaman’s final swim will be at the Class 1A/2A boys state swimming and diving championships on Feb. 15-16 at the King County Aquatics Center in Federal Way but up first is Friday’s West Central District meet at Hazen High in Renton.
It was an extremely tough decision for Heaman to walk away from swimming and it wasn’t done overnight.
Heaman was built for swimming both in the physical sense but in the mental sense as well. Nothing could keep him out of the pool or slacking in a workout.
Following a freshman season that saw Heaman finish sixth in the 200 freestyle, ninth in the 100 freestyle, and was part of two relays, the sky was the limit for his sophomore season. It was during that time, from his freshman season entering his sophomore season, that he pushed himself to the point his shoulders started to bother him with tendinitis.
“It was just me keeping it to myself,” he said, “because if I told my parents they would keep me out of practice. If I told my coaches they’d make me slow down.”
Heaman can see now that his 14-year-old self thought he was invincible.
“Yeah, nothing’s going to happen to me because I’m 14,” he said.
During a practice session at Klahowya, Heaman felt a twinge in his knee coming off a wall on a turn. He sat out of practice for a while then got back in and tried again. Heaman came back to practice the next week and did one more push off but knew something was wrong.
“It started to get to the point where I needed to see a doctor,” Heaman said.
That churned up his guts.
“I know they’re going to either make me stay out or make me go to physical therapy and I really wasn’t interested,” he said. “I just wanted to keep going, keep bettering myself.”
On his first visit to the doctor, Heaman got the news he dreaded. He had to sit out for two weeks.
“It was like a knife to the heart.”
The realization that something Heaman loved so much was the one thing that hurt him the most was heartbreaking.
“It was just this big cycle of wanting to get back into it, but the more that I did the less I could do,” he said.
Klahowya coach Diana Peterson said it was tough to watch Heaman struggle.
“It does kind of break my heart that he’s not able to do what I know he could have done,” she said. “But I also think that the adversity he’s gone through has also made him realize other things out there, other possibilities.”
Heaman’s biggest problem, he said, was wanting to come back and go as hard as he did before.
“I’m impatient that way,” Heaman said.
With his state hopes dashed, Heaman focused on getting better with the end goal of competing at the state meet as a junior which he did.
“I decided I needed to go easier. I didn’t swim a single meet (my junior year) until the very end of the season,” he said. “That’s probably what allowed me to get back to
Even then Heaman had to make another tough call. Listening to his body, and putting his pride aside, Heaman scratched out of the 100 freestyle at state last year. He placed fourth in the 50 free and swam in the 200
Heaman said recognizing his limitations, “realizing I’m not made of steel,” and his growing maturity helped.
Peterson said Heaman will achieve the success he wants, it just won’t be in the pool.
“He’s a very intelligent young man and academics — that was always his priority anyway — swimming was secondary,” she said. “But he’s still going to follow that dream and do what he wants to do in college.”
Heaman no longer swims for Poulsbo Piranhas Swim Team, he formerly swam at Olympic Aquatic Club before it disbanded, and misses pushing himself and racing against his friends. The lure of two possible podium finishes a little more than a week away has Heaman focused.
Heaman, who is a Running Start student at Olympic College, wants to swim in both the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Peterson added it wouldn’t surprise her if Heaman was standing on top of the podium on the final day of the season.
“Because that’s who he is,” she said. “If he’s feeling good, he has that drive, he will still have that potential in him because he’s a sprinter, sprinters can do that. If he was a long distance swimmer, I think that would be a different situation but he’s a sprinter he can kind of step up to the plate and go all out and he’s going to be just fine.
“I’m excited to see what happens for him.”
Heaman has come to terms with letting go of his childhood dream of swimming in college.
“It was really hard for a long time but I’ve accepted it,” he said. “I’m never going to give up loving the sport.”