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East Valley High swimmer trains hard, shows maturity

East Valley High School senior and competitive swimmer Michelle Kazuba started swimming in seventh grade.
East Valley High School senior and competitive swimmer Michelle Kazuba started swimming in seventh grade.

It’s easy to overlook Michelle Kazuba in the halls at East Valley High School. Her small stature can make her seem swallowed up in the crowd. Yet counselor Heidi Youseph said Kazuba has “made a huge impact at our school.”

Kazuba has achondroplasia dwarfism, but she’s never let the condition get in her way. “I figure I can do most things by myself because that’s the way I’ve lived my life.”

Indeed, Kazuba is a competitive athlete. She swims with both Team St. Luke’s and Spokane Area Swimming. In 2010, she won all six of her events at the Washington State Swimming Championships in the disability division. The following year she placed first in the 200 breaststroke at the Can-Am Disability National Championships.

Despite her accomplishments she hasn’t been immune from unkind comments about her size. “There’s always going to be the ignorant kinds of kids,” she said. “This is my life, so I just kind of ignore it.”

Truthfully, she hasn’t had much time to worry about it. She’s developed close friendships at school and elsewhere and Youseph said, “By the time we’ve all gotten here and had our coffee, she’s already put in two hours in the pool!”

She trains with Spokane Area Swimming six or seven sessions a week, and once a week with Team St. Luke’s.

Kazuba came to swimming later than many of her competitors. At her mother’s urging, she starting swimming in seventh grade. “I didn’t really like it at first,” she said. “But then I started to train more and get used to the water. I went to a couple meets and really liked the team support.”

What she loves most about the sport is, “With swimming you can see your improvement easily from meet to meet.”

Even with her rigorous training schedule Kazuba has maintained her academic studies and is looking forward to attending Washington State University this fall.

“I want to be a nutritionist or a dietitian,” she said. “I changed my diet and dropped 20 seconds from my time in certain events. I thought, ‘Wow! Just changing my diet can do this! What else can I change to get my body in absolute perfect condition to swim?’ ”

Youseph said Kazuba is responsible, mature and college-ready. “I don’t think she realizes what an impact she’s made on the school. Michelle has a very can-do attitude. She’s demonstrated to other students that nothing is impossible.”