Zoe Steinmetz didn’t have an easy freshman year.
But it certainly has been a rewarding one.
Steinmetz is in her first year at Little Flower High School, and coming into the year, she had high hopes for her academic career and also wanted to perform well in swimming.
School has been perfect.
She maintains a 99 average in the classroom, has a grade point average of 5.43 on a 4.0 scale and is ranked No. 1 in her class.
But swimming posed all sorts of problems.
First, the season was set to begin in November, but because of COVID-19 restrictions and decisions by the Catholic League to postpone the start, training didn’t begin until after January.
Then, a few weeks into training, Steinmetz had to shut it down because she tested positive for coronavirus.
That meant no practice, no working out and resting up for two weeks until she was able to get back.
That’s a big deal for anyone, but for a swimmer in the middle of a shortened season, it threw a monkey wrench in what Steinmetz hoped would be a great rookie campaign.
“It really hurt my conditioning and my stamina,” said Steinmetz, who lives in Pine Valley and attended Philadelphia Academy Charter for grade school. “On the first night I knew I had it, I started feeling a little bad, my back hurt a little and for two weeks I had some issues with my chest, but nothing too serious.
“It was actually my whole family, everyone got it, and I think my mom got it the worst, but we’re all OK now.”
Steinmetz returned, but it wasn’t for long.
Shortly after she returned, she was near a teammate who tested positive, so she had to shut it down again, though this time just for a few days. Then she got back in the pool, and returned to what she does best.
In the end, it was good enough to be among the best in the Catholic League.
Steinmetz earned First-Team All-Catholic in the 100-yard breaststroke and Second-Team All-Catholic in the 200 freestyle. It’s a huge accomplishment for a freshman, but even a bigger one when you consider all the setbacks she had to overcome with the virus.
“I was pleasantly surprised, I had no idea I got it until coach (Sean Clothier) told me,” Steinmetz said. “I was very happy. I didn’t know what to expect, but when I found out I got it, I was very happy.”
Steinmetz didn’t just have a crazy season this year, she hasn’t had a typical swimming career.
Many swimmers start getting serious in the sport when they’re old enough to walk, but she didn’t really take it seriously until she was 11. That’s when she started working with Anthony Powell of Northeast Swim Club. That’s when she started swimming at an elite level, and while it wasn’t easy, she eventually became one of the best.
“He introduced me to the world of USA Swimming,” Steinmetz said. “He’s one of the most amazing coaches and he’s always there for me. He’s a great coach.
“I think I was very determined, even when I wasn’t making any of the intervals. I wasn’t keeping up, but I was really determined and through hard work and vigorous training, I was able to slowly but surely pick it up. In my second year, I made Mid-Atlantic Junior Olympics.
“That was fun because I was swimming with all these great swimmers. I learned a lot. It helped a lot.”
The improvement has continued since she showed up at Little Flower.
Prior to her All-Catholic race, she got a text message from alum Ally McHugh, and right before her big race, she got a text from Gina Cantoral, who swam for Little Flower a year ago.
“That meant a lot because they really wanted to help me,” Steinmetz said. “Ally is training for the Olympics, and Gina was a great swimmer (at Little Flower), so it really motivated me.”
They’re not the only ones who helped her this year.
“I hit the jackpot with my coaches, both Anthony and Sean,” said Steinmetz, who also plays the violin in the orchestra and is in the community service corps. “They’re so amazing, and I really think what they have done for me has affeted my school work. Through them, I’ve become so disciplined and determined, so I have them to thank.”
She also thanks her family for keeping her focused.
A proud big sister to Ethan, 13, and Jake, 9, Steinmetz does her best to watch them play baseball. Jake also shares her passion for swimming.
She’s also taken advantage of the last year to spend more time with her entire family.
“It’s been nice because I see them more,” Steinmetz said. “Usually everyone is so busy with school and sports, but we’ve seen each other more. So that’s been good.”
She also spends time hitting the books.
She’s proud of her ranking, especially because it’s something she’s earned.
“It wasn’t easy, it was very tough,” Steinmetz said. “The workload was a lot more than I expected, but I was able to stay on top of my game.
“This is my first year doing the violin, and that’s hard, especially reading the music, but I’m learning. I don’t think I’m very good yet, but I’m working on it.”
If it’s anything like swimming, she won’t be good. She’ll be great.