Lindsey Ertter is retired now, but not really. The 2001 Langley High School graduate and breaststroker said that she is still coming to grips with missing out on the Olympic swimming goal she dreamed up while watching Janet Evans cruise to gold in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. For now, Ertter, a six time Virginia High School League AAA state champion, has shut the door on her Olympic dream, but has not quite locked that door.
"It was time to do something else," said Ertter, who swam in her last meet in 2005. "I am actually an inactive swimmer. I can still swim if I decide to. [Being designated as inactive] gives me a window or cushion because if I wanted to come back, I would not have to wait."
Ertter, who still has several questions about her future, can never be questioned about her successful swimming past. "I remember sitting on my dad's lap and saying 'that's what I really want to do,'" said Ertter, who watched Evans win gold while sitting on her father John's lap in their Great Falls home. "My ultimate goal was always to make an Olympic team. It never came that clear to me that it was something that could be a reality."
The reality hit Ertter, a breaststroker from the age of seven, sooner rather than later.
By the age of 12, she had made her first Olympic trials while swimming at the Senior Nationals tournament in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
"When I made the Olympic trials, I had no idea what I had done," said Ertter, who said she had to wait four more years before she could compete in those trials (2000) because she swam her fastest time during an Olympic year.
Ertter, who competed in the 100-meter breaststroke, took 11th place in the 2000 trials after considering herself a long shot. She went back four years later and took fifth place in 2004 trials in Long Beach.
"When I first swam in the 2000 trials, it was a long shot," she said. "I really wanted to be able to go to Sydney. It just wasn't a reality. In 2004, I went in it with "anything can happen." It doesn't matter what your name is or who you are and how fast you were in the past, it's all about who wants it that day."
THE CHAPTERS in Ertter's Olympic story have been written, and as she begins to wake up from the dream that has consumed the last five years of her life, she has grown a little perspective. "Making an Olympic team pales in comparison to everything I've been able to do," said Ertter, whose talent afforded her the opportunity to travel the world. Spain, Rome, England, Australia, Monaco: Ertter's list of travels goes on and on. But right here at home, through several swim clubs including Curl Burke, Tuckahoe, Great Falls Swim and Tennis Club and the Sea Devils, is where Ertter honed her skills and made a name for herself as a young swimming phenom setting pool records from the age of eight.
"We just grew up together at Great Falls Swim and Tennis Club," said Ertter of her group of friends that included Great Falls swimmers Rachel Shipp, Laura Schwickrath, Erin James and Lauren Cornet — all still record-holders for the youth swim club.
"Our parents would drop us off at six a.m. and we would go to every practice we could go to. We had a family there at Great Falls. We lived five minutes from the pool," Ertter recalled.
Ertter also spent time with Div. 1 Tuckahoe in McLean and with Curl Burke as she grew older and sought more serious and competitive year-round competition. By the time she got to high school, Ertter was already a household name for anyone in the swimming circuit.
"People knew who I was," said Ertter. "A lot of us [year-round swimmers] swam high school and continued with summer league even after going to nationals and traveling the world because the pressure wasn't there."
EVEN WITHOUT pressure, Ertter won six state championships and set records in all three of her years at the AAA state tournament. She won three gold medals in the 200 individual medley and three gold medals in the 100 breaststroke from 1999-2001. She also helped the Saxons to four team AAA state championships from 1998-2001. She was simply dominant at the high school level, but like most year-round competitive swimmers, high school was a chance for her to relax.
"I don't look at myself as some untouchable person, I can be beaten on any day," said Ertter who took second place in her freshman year in the 100-meter breaststroke. "That was always a goal to swim as fast as I could."
Ertter, who went on to become an All-American in 2003 and 2004 at the University of Georgia, returned home for a while after graduating and retiring from swimming in December. While at Georgia, Ertter was a team captain and made a trip to the NCAA Championships in all of her four years. She finished third in the 100-yard breast with a personal best time of 1:01.07 in 2005 and led her team to a second place finish in the SEC tournament. Ertter credits her upbringing in the pools of Northern Virginia for her success.
"The one unique thing about Northern Virginia is that it is kind of a Mecca for youth swimming," she said. "It's a great area. We have had a lot of swimmers come out of this area. In Georgia you drive four or five hours to get to a swim meet. Here you drive 25 minutes and you are at a pool and then five more minutes you are at another pool."
Ertter's Youth Records
Curl Burke Swim Club Records
100-breast 1:13.56 2000
200-breast 2:37.20 2000
100-breast 1:10.98 2000
200-breast 2:37.90 2000
—According to Curle Burke record books
Great Falls Swim and Tennis Club
50-breast 34.37 1996
100-Relay 1:03.06 1996
50-breast 34.88 1995
100-IM 1:09.96 1995
100-relay 1:03.97 1995
50-breast 40.69 1994
100-relay 1:16.20 1994
25-free 17.06 1993
25-back 21.51 1993
25-breast 22.02 1993
100-relay 1:20.80 1993
—According to GF Swim and Tennis Club record books
Lindsey Ertter is 84 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.