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Victoria Kirshner is a Cardinal for good

Posted: April 28, 2014 10:31 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2014 10:31 p.m.

Santa Clarita Christian swimmer Victoria Kirshner and her mother Elizabeth spearheaded the school's first high school swim team this year.

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It’s not entirely uncommon for a club swimmer to see their high school team as something secondary; a break from the grind of a club season, but ultimately just that — a break.

Win or lose, they’ll return to their club squad and their “rivals” will once again become their teammates.

But for Victoria Kirshner, who swims for the Santa Clarita Valley’s Canyons Aquatic Club, representing her high school wasn’t just a brief reprieve, it was the most important thing.

“I like high school swim a lot more because I feel like you’re representing something more than just yourself,” Kirshner said. “In club you’re representing the name and your time and it’s just you.”

The problem?

Her high school, Santa Clarita Christian School, didn’t have a swim team when she graduated from eighth grade and prepared to enter high school.

Her mother, Elizabeth Kirshner, gave Victoria the option of attending a public school with a swim team, in her case that would have been Saugus High.

But Victoria loved her school and friends and wanted to remain a Cardinal — so Elizabeth approached the school about the idea.

“I just love the dynamic of the school,” Victoria says. “I wanted to stay. The environment there I really loved. I wanted to represent my school in that way. Anything I could do to swim for the school and stay there was the best option.”

Elizabeth had zero coaching experience in the sport; It looked like the only way to get a team, though, was for her to step up and coach.

“I swam a little bit when I was younger,” Elizabeth said. “I hadn’t coached at all so this was new to me, but I’ve been around swimming a lot with my daughter. It’s been great. The kids are awesome and they’re just so happy to swim and to learn and they’re motivating to me.”

She worked closely with SCCS Athletic Director Ali Aguilar to create the team, and the pair worked with other Heritage League schools to create a four-team league, consisting of Trinity Classical Academy, Vasquez High, Albert Einstein Academy and SCCS.

“(Elizabeth) had a big part in it,” Aguilar says. “Also her stepping up and wanting to be a coach and the planning of how we run swim at SCCS. She’s a big part of running and getting it started.”

Because the program was started late, there were no options for obtaining practice space in the valley.

So Elizabeth was forced to limit the team to club swimmers in the first year — the idea being that these athletes could practice with their club teams.

That left two swimmers: Victoria and Madeleine Perrault.

“It’s been great,” Elizabeth says. “Everyone is very receptive to it and the team I believe it will continue to grow. I hope we can get eight to 10 swimmers (next season).”

Victoria reports a similar response, saying classmates have shown an interest in the campus’ newest sport — and she’s happy to turn them on to swim.

“I think that’s really neat that we have the opportunity to do that,” she says. “Swim is a great sport. It’s good for you, a great workout and I think a lot of people will have fun with it even when I’m not there after graduation. It will still go on.”

Only a freshman, though, Kirshner has plenty more swims to make for the Cardinals.

So far, she’s posting quality times, many of which would be competitive in the CIF-Southern Section Division I Foothill League.

This season, Kirsher will compete in Division IV, and she’s already qualified for CIF-SS prelims in the 50-yard freestyle, 100 backstroke, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

“If she keeps training the way she’s training and is enjoying it, I forsee her trying to qualify for Olympic Trials in 2016,” says her club coach, Kyle Shores. “It’s absolutely doable given the fact that she’s grown a lot.”

For now, though, CIF-SS finals are up first, and that’s priority No. 1 for Kirshner as she hopes to represent the Cardinals while seeking a championship.

“It means a lot about the family and their faith,” says Aguilar of Victoria staying at SCCS. “We lose some of the top athletes to Hart, Canyon, Valencia, all of them. If you look at some of the top athletes in Santa Clarita, there’s a good (amount) ... who had ties to SCCS at some point in their lives. It does mean a lot when you have some top athletes stay.”

Aguilar is hopeful that if Kirshner can win in Division IV, she will be able to compete in higher divisions over the next three years.

“I think that as long as I’m representing my school well and going as fast as I can and placing well at CIF, I’m OK with that,” Victoria says. “But I’d obviously like to be in higher competition.”

But everything has to start somewhere. For Victoria, that journey began this year, thanks to a desire to swim and a dedicated mother willing to step up for her daughter.

“I’m so grateful,” Victoria says. “If it wasn’t for her and her stepping up to that, I wouldn’t have been able to maybe even stay at the school. I really wanted to, and it’s great that she put in the time and I’m thankful for that.”


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