Ten-year-old Shanel Turransky was already a state and district championship swimmer when she entered the waters off Winthrop Beach for her first attempt at the Five Sisters Swim on September 5.
The long distance event was certainly going to be the toughest challenge of her young swimming career: a vigorous 1.2-mile swim in some choppy conditions.
But Turransky passed the test, finishing the course in a time of one hour, a commendable effort for the fifth grade student at the Cumming School who is 4-foot-7.
“Shanel showed what a talented swimmer she is – I know that she’s qualified for state and national level competitions in the past,” said race organizer Warren MacPhail, who was also Shanel’s fourth grade teacher at the Cummings School. “I was a little anxious about a swimmer that young trying to swim 1.2 miles, but she displayed her determination and athletic ability. She’s just a great kid with a very bright future in sports.”
If you recognize Shanel’s last name, then you’ve followed Winthrop High sports. Her father, Andrew, was a Viking football and track star before his graduation from the high school in 1987. Winthrop High track coach Pat McGee says Andrew Turransky is among her greatest high jumpers and hurdlers in the program’s history.
Turransky said she had her first swimming lesson at Marblehead-Swampscott YMCA when she was six months old. Shanel’s mother, Tracie, had been a swimmer as a youth under the tutelage of Sue Guertin, and she enrolled her daughter in swimming lessons each year at the ‘Y’ where Guertin continues as a coach.
“I took swimming lessons until I was nine,” said Shanel. “I would compete in swim meets for the Marblehead-Swampscott YMCA team, the North Shore Sharks, at pools at Salem State College, Harvard University, and Medford High School.”
Shanel’s performances in swim meets have earned her a high ranking in New England in the butterfly event. She also excels in the breaststroke, freestyle, and backstroke and helped her team win district and state championships in the medley relay in 2008.
Next month she will begin training three days a week at the newly built Marblehead-Swampscott YMCA.
What’s been the key ingredient to her success in swimming events?
“I just practice really hard and I think I was inspired by my brother, Reise [a sixth grader who plays in the Winthrop Youth Football program], who used to do swimming,” said Shanel.
Her athletic prowess is not limited to swimming. She is also a cheerleader in the Winthrop Youth Football program and enjoys gymnastics [at Winthrop Gymnastics Academy], track and field, soccer, and softball.
“I love Winthrop and how the town offers so many sports and activities for its youth,” said Tracie Turransky. “It’s a great community and I think it’s all about the kids.”
Shanel said it was Mr. MacPhail who first talked to her about participating in the Five Sisters Swim.
“I had done some long distance swimming at the YMCA, so I felt I’d be able to swim 1.2 miles,” said Shanel. “It was fairly warm at the beginning because there was a little bit of sun, but then it just got really cold.”
“The water was cold and choppy and there were jelly fish – it wasn’t pretty,” reported her mother, Tracie. “It was supposed to be a lot warmer and a lot calmer and it didn’t work out like that.”
Shanel said she’s hoping to return to the Five Sisters Swim, an event stepped in folklore, according to MacPhail, in 2010.
“I’ll be back next year but this time I’ll be getting a wetsuit,” she said, smiling “I’m looking forward to next year.”
MacPhail noted that Michelle DeBonis, another gifted 10-year-old swimmer, competed in the first edition of the 1.2-mile Five Sisters Swim in August.