BONNERS FERRY — What does a mom do when her child wants to swim and compete, exploring her talents to the fullest? For mother Cynthia Cummings, the answer is simple: anything it takes.
“You do what you can to support your kids and their activities,” said Cummings, about her 14-year-old daughter Julia Cummings, who has been swimming since she was two years old, and competing since she was eight.
“Once you compete in swimming, you either love to do it, or you don’t. I just love to swim,” said Julia Cummings. “So then I started swimming on summer teams when I was eight, then joined the competitive teams.”
Julia Cummings wanted to swim for her Bonners Ferry High School, but there was no swim team.
“They have never had a Bonners Ferry swim team up here,” she said, “so when we found out that they didn’t — and I wasn’t able to swim (for) Sandpoint because my home school is Bonners Ferry — they had a board meeting and they made swimming a sport at Bonners Ferry High School. Basically I was the first one, and the only one on it right now, and I’m just trying to recruit members.”
“Since she was planning on graduating with Bonners Ferry,” said her mom, “she wanted to represent the school rather than a school that she wasn’t graduating with.”
This was not an easy task. Sandpoint was supportive and welcoming, but to make the practices, Julia Cummings is a dual enrollment student with Bonners Ferry High School and Idaho Virtual Academy.
“That would be the only way with her year round swimming with Sandpoint West Aquatic Club. She couldn’t do a full day here in Bonners, so she does part time, and does the rest online, so that she can make afternoon practices down in Sandpoint,” said Cynthia Cummings.
“Bonners Ferry High School swimming is done through cooperative,” explained Julia Cummings. “I use the facility in Sandpoint, and I share their coach, and I travel with them, but I wear a Bonners Ferry swim cap and represent Bonners Ferry High School.”
Julia Cummings competes mostly in backstroke and freestyle mid-distance. In freestyle she is a sprinter. Her goal is to consistently better her times. The Sandpoint West Aquatic Club, that she swims with year round, is more competitive that the high school teams, she says, so it keeps her sharp.
“I’m just getting faster as I go,” Julia Cummings explained, but there is no bragging with her, just a genuine love of the sport. “It’s just so cool to be in the water and just compete. I love competition and competing against people, and competing for districts and states. It’s a lot of fun.”
Julia Cummings is now focused on recruiting more members. “If we get three more girls, then we could have a relay, and that relay could possibly go to state,” said Julia, “and that would be a lot of fun.”
On Sept. 1, Julia Cummings held a bake sale at Super 1 Foods, as a fundraiser for her solo swim team. She and a friend made most of the items, with a little help from her grandmother and a friend’s mother. They had a wide array of items, from brownies to pineapple upside down cake, to her favorite: beautiful pretzels dipped in chocolate and garnished with sprinkles.
No attention to detail was lost, and Julia Cummings shined as a friendly host to the people who stopped to talk or buy her meticulously prepared items.
“It’s been doing really well,” said Julia after two hours of the bake sale. “The people here in Bonners Ferry are super nice. I had people who just walk up and give $20s or $50s and don’t take anything. It’s just been such a huge blessing that this swim team has opened and people are super excited about it and that they are so thoughtful and so supportive of the swim team.”
“The generosity of the community was overwhelming,” said Cynthia Cummings. The money raised will go to buy her daughter’s swim gear and the remaining money will go into a Swimming Fundraiser account at Bonners Ferry High School for future swimmers.
So why does a mother make so many trips to Sandpoint for her daughter’s passion? “It’s fun,” said Cynthia Cummings. “It’s so fun because she loves it so much. It’s just fun to watch.”
Julia Cummings may be the only swimmer wearing the Badger colors right now, but she is ready to represent her school and this community, with a gentle smile backed by fierce determination.