Ana Roudebush is nurturing her CHamoru roots. Born and raised in Northern California, the effervescent 17-year-old grew up hearing stories of Guam from her mother, Mona Babauta.
And on summer trips to Guam, Roudebush has embraced the island’s culture, spending time at the family ranch in Agat, paddling with the Haggan Kanu Club, and testing the waters at the Hagåtña Pool with the Manhoben Swim Club.
Swimming fast in California competitions
Roudebush loves the water and swimming – more specifically swimming fast. In July, she posted a time of a 1.00.86 (60.86 seconds) in the 100-meter freestyle at the 2019 Summer Super League LC Swimming Championship in Santa Clara, Calif.
The high-profile event is ultra-competitive and attracts many of the country’s top prep swimmers. While the time wasn’t good enough to get her onto the podium, it was .01 seconds faster than the 12-year-old Guam national record of 1:00.87 set by Manami Iijima with the Tsunami Swim Club in August 2007.
Don San Agustin, Guam Swimming Federation head coach, told The Guam Daily Post that the time, “although very fast,” doesn’t qualify for a Guam record.
San Agustin explained that, to set an official Guam record, an athlete needs to be vetted through the federation and meet federation and Guam National Olympic Committee requirements.
Reconnecting with family in Agat
While the time doesn’t put her name in the Guam record books, it’s a mark of strong athletes connected to the island – some of whom have begun returning to their island roots, and even representing Guam in competition.
Ana’s mother, Mona Babauta, is the daughter of Cel Babauta of Agat. Mona Babauta was born in Hawaii but grew up on Guam, competing on the girls’ volleyball team at Notre Dame High School until her dad, who was in the Air Force, was relocated to Germany after her sophomore year in 1989.
Babauta returns to Guam often, and she’s exposing her daughters Ana and 10-year-old Nia to her, and their, island heritage.
“It’s important they share their island culture and learn where they are from,” Babauta told The Guam Daily Post from her home in Marin County, Calif.
Looking for balance in college
Roudebush will be a senior at San Francisco University High School this fall and is still weighing her options for college, well aware of the demands of an NCAA Division I swim program.
With a D2 or D3 program, Roudebush said, she might better balance life in- and outside of the pool.
“A lot of kids are good enough to go D1, but it is a job,” Roudebush said.
Roudebush first found love for the water when her grandma insisted she take swimming lessons. She started swimming competitively in fourth grade in northern California, where, Roudebush said, “there are a lot of fast swimmers."
“In the suburbs, it’s a big sport," she added. "Kids grow up swimming, which is how you get fast.”
Forging friendships while honing talent
For now. Roudebush competes with her high school and with her club team, the North Bay Aquatics. She said that, until high school, she didn’t enjoy competing that much. Then she embraced the social aspect and became close with her teammates, which made the difference.
“If you just focus on the competition only, you probably will be pretty unhappy with it,” she said. “You have to enjoy practicing. … You don’t have the option of quitting, if you want to compete.”
Outside the pool Roudebush stays busy as a writer for her school newspaper and an advocate for young girls and women with the Girls of Color Riot Club, which focuses on the intersection of race and feminism by developing conferences and workshops.
A good coach and club are essential
Roudebush said her time in the pool relaxes her.
“It’s easy to forget about stress when you're swimming,” she said. “It’s meditative.”
Roudebush’s advice to young swimmers is to find a good coach and club where you can connect with the people and enjoy your time in the pool. She also said it’s important to set goals and don’t take competition for granted.
“If you are going to compete, understand what you are shooting for and go for it.”