By Grace Levy
“There's no limiting me on what I can do in the water,” said Novato High School senior Shannon Dugdale.
Dugdale has been swimming for 11 years now, and it provides more than a workout or a place to splash around with friends. It is an outlet. The pool is a place where she is free to move however she wants. Dugdale was born with spina bifida, a spinal cord defect leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Yet, she has never allowed this to limit her. Now after 11 years of breaking through boundaries, Dugdale is training to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
At the age of seven, Dugdale decided she wanted to swim. “It’s mostly because of my sister,” said Dugdale. “She joined swim team when she was ten. I saw her swimming and I thought that's pretty cool, I want to do it.”
So she got in the pool and never looked back.
“When she got in the first time, it was the greatest thing,” said Karen Dugdale, mother of Shannon. “She can wheel herself around, but to be able to move in any direction like that, it was really exciting as a parent to see her have that freedom.”
Dugdale has been swimming ever since, inspiring teammates and coaches with each stroke.
“She brightens my day everytime I see her, she puts a smile right on my face,” said senior
Talitha Abreu, friend and teammate of Dugdale since they started swimming in 2007. “When she wants something, she tries her hardest to achieve her goal. She never wants to skip practice and is always on her game, wanting to do better and be better.”
That much is true as Dugdale’s training takes dedication and hard work, something she always exerts. In early October, Dugdale competed in a Paralympic-affiliated meet. Her times qualified her for the Speedo Can-Am Para swimming Championships, an international meet in Canada which she will be attending in March.
Dugdale plans to train at the Colorado Springs Training Center, where Olympians and Paralympians from around the world come to train. She will also be attending a community college nearby.
“It gives me goosebumps every time it's mentioned,” Dugdale said, smiling.
The Novato High School community is proud of Dugdale and hopeful for her future swimming endeavors.