Maya Wilson struggled this season and it wasn’t against opponents.
The Burroughs High swimmer entered her sophomore season in 2018 following a phenomenally successful freshman campaign in which she set school records, captured a Pacific League championship, moved on to the CIF Southern Section Division II finals and advanced to the CIF State meet.
But shortly into her sophomore season, Wilson came down with bronchitis, which forced her to curtail her practices and miss workouts, putting her behind in her progression.
“Maya just doesn’t miss practices, she is just that dedicated and focused,” Burroughs coach Jacob Cook said. “She works out two times a day a lot of the times. So for her to have to cut back and miss practices, you knew it was pretty bad for her.”
Wilson said her recovery was slow and sometimes painful, as she battled to shake the illness.
“It was hard to breathe and that made it difficult in practice and meets,” she said. “When you are a swimmer, it’s all about your breathing and to not be able to breathe very well made it very tough.
“It was frustrating because I had to miss some training. But I tried not to think too much about the bad aspects of it and I tried to get through it and focus more on my process. It took some time to get over it and I just had to focus a lot on my recovery.”
Despite the struggles, the talented swimmer turned in another successful season for the Indians. Wilson earned her sixth school record, broke two of her own marks, won two individual league titles and advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division II championship finals in two events.
It was because of those accomplishments that Wilson was selected the 2018 All-Area Girls’ Swimmer of the Year, as voted by the sportswriters of the La Cañada Valley Sun, Burbank Leader and Glendale News-Press. It was the second straight year Wilson was bestowed with the honor.
Wilson, who trains at Rose Bowl Aquatics, added to her wildly successful freshman campaign at Burroughs in which she set five school records. This past season, she bested her previous mark in the 200-yard freestyle with a 1 minute, 51:02 second effort, broke her own 100 freestyle time with a 52.89 and established a new record in the 200 individual medley with a 2:12.81.
“Maya now holds Burroughs records in six of the eight individual events,” Cook said. “The only ones she doesn’t have are the 100 [backstroke] and the 100 [breaststroke]. That’s pretty amazing considering she’s just a sophomore.
“She puts a lot of pressure on herself to improve. She puts a lot of work into being a good swimmer and she expects there to be some results. But it’s that drive that helps make her successful.”
One of Wilson’s teammates at Rose Bowl is Emily Giesler, who competes for Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy. The two have been friends and have been swimming together since they were 5 or 6 years old.
“We have been swimming together for a long time and I’ve always admired how dedicated and hard working Maya is,” Giesler said. “She just cares so much about her teammates and it’s never about just her.
“It doesn’t surprise me the amount of success she’s having. She deserves every piece of success she’s gotten and I know she is going to do more great things in the next two years. Her hard work really pays off.”
That hard work paid dividends at the Pacific League finals in early May. Wilson easily captured a title in the 500 freestyle, as her time of 4:59.15 was 42 seconds ahead of second place.
Wilson also competed in the 200 freestyle, where she swam to victory in record-breaking time. With a mark of 1:51.73, Wilson set a new Pacific League record, breaking the time of Crescenta Valley’s Heather MacDougall in 2013 by .03 seconds.
“It was nice to be able to set that record,” Wilson said. “I was really close to it the year before and to be able to get it this year was great. I went into it with kind of the goal of breaking it, so I wanted to just be able to do better than the year before and drop my time.
“There’s a point where you have to really think about what you really want to accomplish and to think about your goals and you have to train all year to reach those goals. All the work is there to reach the end goal.”
Although still not completely over her illness, Wilson advanced to the Division II finals at the Riverside Aquatics Complex in mid-May. She concluded her season with a sixth-place finish in the 200 freestyle in a personal-best time of 1:51.02 and took seventh in the 500 freestyle in another PR of 5:01.93.
“Overall, I think I did OK for the season,” Wilson said. “Considering where I was at at one point in the season, I think I did pretty well and I did the best that I could.”
With her past successes and two more years remaining in high school, Wilson could add to an already impressive legacy at Burroughs.
“I really want to be able to swim in college,” Wilson said. “And that’s what I’m focusing on now. Hopefully I will be able to accomplish that.”