It took years before Saralynn Davis, 15, (right) and Izzy Ramsland, 17, began to enjoy their practice sessions at local pools.
But after being dragged to the sessions by parents, the two Cecil County residents started to appreciate the friendships they formed there and the sport itself.
"I signed up when I was four," Davis said. "I didn't like it at all. I started making friends there when I was nine, but I didn't start enjoying it until I was 13."
"My older sister was a swimmer and my parents took me, too. I would scream and cry because I didn't like how cold the water was," she said.
Now their training and experience are taking Davis and Ramsland to the YMCA Long Course National swimming competition at the Indiana University in Indianapolis. The competitions will be held from July 28 through August 1.
"We had to qualify to be invited," Ramsland said.
To do that, the swimmers had to meet a minimum time in other YMCA competitions.
There Davis, who lives near Rising Sun, will compete in the backstroke. "I've been swimming the backstroke. It kind of clicked for me," Davis said.
Ramsland, who lives near Port Deposit, will swim in the butterfly race. She has been swimming that stroke since she was five years old.
Both will be going against more than 100 other swimmers in their events.
Davis will swim in the 100 meter and 200 meter races while Ramsland will compete in the 100 meter.
This will be Davis's second national competition. In April, she swam the 100 meter backstroke at the YMCA Short Course National Championship in Greensboro, N.C.
"The winter meet is more competitive because it involves the more serious swimmers who work all year long," Davis said.
Her qualifying time for the short course also allowed her to compete in this week's long course.
Ramsland qualified for the long course competition at a meet two weeks ago, swimming with a broken wrist.
The girls swim with the team from the Jennersville, Pa., YMCA.
Davis has been at Jennersville since she started swimming. Ramsland joined that team two years ago.
"That's when I got better," she said last week.
Both credit their coach, Blaise Matthews, with helping them improve their skills. The girls train two hours a day, six or seven times a week.
"In the winter, we have Sundays off," Ramsland said.
Their experience has given both ways to cope with the jitters that come before each race.
Her preparation "mostly involved getting over the nerves," Davis said.
She has a ritual she follows before each race.
"I crack my knuckles and then I stretch 21 times and that works for me," she said.
Ramsland relies on her suit to get over pre-competition jitters.
"I have to have a certain suit if I'm going to swim," she said. "I've already got it packed to go to the meet."