Emerging as tenacious swim captain


Neveah Jones

New Tech High @ Coppell senior AnaMarija Radicic dives at practice at the Coppell YMCA on Jan. 24. Coming from Croatia after living there for nine years, Radicic adjusted to her new environment and is now a captain of the varsity swim team.

Karen Lu, Daily News/Assignment Editor

New Tech High @ Coppell senior AnaMarija Radicic’s father, Tomislav Radicic, holds an enormous red, white and blue Croatian flag, waving it and cheering at the top of his lungs at his daughter’s swim meet. 

For AnaMarija, this is the cross section of two very prominent aspects of her life: her Croatian background and living there for nine years, along with her position as a team captain on Coppell’s varsity swim team. 

Though she started swimming in first grade, AnaMarija only started taking the sport seriously once she started swimming with Coppell after moving to Texas before her freshman year.
“I always liked the sport, but my passion just grew over time,” AnaMarija said. “In Croatia, I wasn’t really competitive, so I wasn’t learning or improving much. I was just swimming to swim, but when I got here with [Coppell swim coach Marieke Mastebroek], she’s amazing with technique work, so I improved a lot.”

AnaMarija’s steep learning curve caused her to go from being a freshman on JV for one semester to a senior varsity swim captain. 

“From when she first got here to now, she became super competitive and a huge role model to where she’s the hardest worker in the girls group,” Mastebroek said. “I didn’t initially pick her as a captain, but she’s been so intense and so on top of her swimming, and now is really one of the best girls on the team. She went from being one of the slowest girls on the team to one of the fastest. It’s a complete transformation, and it’s really impressive what she’s done.”

Born in Palo Alto, Calif. before moving to Croatia in 2007 and back to the United States in 2016, AnaMarija didn’t struggle with a language barrier when first coming to Coppell. However, moving right before the start of high school still presented itself with challenges regarding developing new friendships and relationships.

“After finishing eight years of school in Croatia, she already had strong relationships, so [adjusting] was hard for her,” AnaMarija’s mom, Vesna Radicic, said. “But she really found her friends on the swim team. Those are the people who share the same love for the pool, for water as her. When you share the same love from the start, it’s much easier to make friends.”

More than just giving her a sense of family and camaraderie, the swim team fosters an environment where each swimmer is pushing each other and constantly seeking improvement. 

“My teammates and coach are always pushing me to do better,” AnaMarija said. “Being in an environment where everyone is competitive and working on themselves to get better makes me want to work on myself and get better results.”

After swimming with the team for her fourth season, AnaMarija has gained more than just faster times and better technique. 

“I’ve learned so much persistence because without that, you can’t survive,” AnaMarija said. “I’ve gained that mental strength of pushing myself; when my body fails, I need to push through. Sometimes in swim, I have to push as much as I can until I basically can’t breathe anymore, but I have to stay strong and push through it.” 

Her dedication and willpower stem not only from the competitive swim environment, but her personal background as well.

“Being from Croatia, there’s a certain toughness in that culture that is also in her,” Mastebroek said. “I see that also in her family. She’s mentally quite strong and has a great attitude. She’s grown into quite the leader, and she’s become a real strong individual.”

Follow Karen (@_karenlu_) and @SidekickSports on Twitter.