By Sharon Robb
PEMBROKE PINES, August 4, 2020—At age 12, Gabby Banks was named to the Jamaican national swim team.
“It was so cool,” remembered Banks. “I love going to different places and countries (Hungary, Peru, Barbados, Bahamas, Aruba, Trinidad, Martinique), that part is so much fun. World Juniors in Hungary has been my biggest meet so far.”
But it wasn’t until she came to South Florida Aquatic Club as a high school freshman at Cypress Bay that Banks came into her own as a swimmer.
“There was more quality training,” Banks said. “I was a little scared of Coach Chris at first. The practices were distance and IM and I never focused on that. It was really hard and I thought ‘oh my gosh, I am going to die,’ but I understood it after a while. The other team I was with I only did sprinting. When I switched teams my endurance built up. I was doing 100s, 200s and longer stuff without dying. At first it was hard. I felt like I was drowning. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It turned out to be great for me.
“I am swimming better than ever,” Banks said. “I am going close to best times in practice. I never trained as hard as I have right now.
“I love Coach Chris as a coach. He has pushed me so much. I do longer distances and stuff like that. I love training with him. He brings out the best in you.”
Banks, 17, started swimming at age 3 in Jamaica. She and her family moved to South Florida when she was 5. She started swimming competitively at 10. Her older sister, now 26, was also a competitive swimmer and former member of the Jamaican national team.
“Ever since I saw her I wanted to go in the pool,” Banks said. “My other sister did track, but I liked swimming better.”
Banks has been getting in shape for college swimming. She committed to Florida State and expects to arrive Aug. 20 in Tallahassee where she will swim for six-time Coach of the Year Neal Studd.
“It was nice to get back into the pool (after the COVID-19 lockdown) and get in shape for college,” Banks said. “I really loved the school when I went on my college visit. I liked the team and the way they bonded. The campus is super pretty and it’s close to home.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Banks stayed busy with two basic college classes and an astronomy course, drawing, reading and doing her zoom dryland workouts. She said she caught up on hobbies she doesn’t normally have time to do. She plans to major in studio art and hopes to be a graphic designer.
“The break wasn’t that bad,” Banks said. “I got a chance to rest my body. It was a good little break. When I got back to swimming it really pushed me to try harder to improve.”
While Banks’ international meets including CCAN have been rescheduled for 2021, she plans on focusing on her college studies and swimming this year. The team-oriented swimmer said she will miss her SOFLO team and friends the most. Her fondest SOFLO memories are 2019 Futures, Junior Nationals, the high school senior sendoff including a special catered dinner from Cheesecake Factory.
“It was really nice, a bunch of cars with the younger swimmers came around and were honking and holding up signs. The dinner was nice. We talked and watched the senior videos. It was a perfect send-off.”
Now she is ready for her next journey.
“My goal is to do well in college and to represent Jamaica well,” Banks said. “I went to world juniors last year and the next step for me would be world championships. I am really excited about the future.”
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com