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Something in the Water

Colorado State-Pueblo swimmer doubles as a world-class lifeguard

by Zach Wagner

At an age when some kids are still learning to swim, Samantha Sannes was learning to save other swimmers.

A sophomore swimmer at Colorado State University-Pueblo who took her first junior lifeguarding class at age 9, Sannes has spent her first two years of college balancing her two earliest loves in life: swimming and lifeguarding.

Lucky for her, the two go hand in hand. “With trying to help establish CSU-Pueblo as an up-and-coming program, I’m always around the water,” Sannes says. “As long as I’m around a pool, I can essentially practice both.”

Sannes, who also works as a lifeguard for Los Angeles County in California, competes as a lifeguard at the profession’s highest level: on the U.S. Lifesaving Association High Performance Squad. In September, she will take part in the 2016 World Lifesaving Championships in the Netherlands. Sponsored by the International Lifesaving Federation, which represents 30 million lifesavers and lifeguards worldwide, the competition includes individual and team events, held in both a pool and the North Sea.

Besides the thrill of competition, in her lifeguarding career Sannes also has experienced the gut-wrenching exhilaration of lifeguarding rescue. On a rainy, humid day in Los Angeles, she spotted out of the corner of her eye a man struggling to stay above the water. Flying into action, Sannes quickly reached the man and realized he didn’t speak English.

Suddenly, she had to work through a language barrier to calm him and bring him to safety. “That was probably the most adrenaline I’ve had on a rescue …, given the man’s distress,” she says.

Eventually, Sannes plans to trade lifeguarding for a different career pursuit. A political science major, she hopes to become a lawyer and entrepreneur. “I’ve always loved lifeguarding,” Sannes says. “To still be doing it is special.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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