Competing on California’s biggest stage for high school swimmers doesn’t faze her.
Problems, no matter how big, can’t shake her.
Clovis West High sophomore swimmer Abby Samansky, among the roughly 900 competitors at this weekend’s CIF State Swimming & Diving championships at her school’s Clovis Olympic Swim Complex, learned at an early age how to handle adversity.
Tragedy forced that upon her.
“I hate that this ever happened,” her dad, Aaron, said. “But I think it’s made her more resilient.”
I saw all the blood. My mom was crying. I sat on the curb crying. ... I definitely knew it was something bad.
Abby Samansky, recalling a car crash that took her sister’s life
On the night of Nov. 11, 2005, 4-year-old Abby went to the grocery store with mom Andrea and older sister Alyssa.
They were walking back to their car, all three holding hands, when a truck turned and went the wrong way in the parking lot.
Samanky’s mom was struck from behind, in turn knocking Andrea to the pavement.
The truck struck and killed Alyssa.
Abby saw it all.
And as much as she’d like the memory to fade, Samansky doesn’t forget.
“I have no idea how or why I remember it all,” Samansky said. “It just stuck.
“I saw all the blood. My mom was crying. I sat on the curb crying. I didn’t know exactly what happened, but I definitely knew it was something bad.”
Amid the hours of sorrow, after it was confirmed that 7-year-old Alyssa had died, Andrea Samansky turned to her husband when they got home.
“We need to be strong for our daughter,” Aaron recalled Andrea telling him. “We cannot just curl up in a ball and cry.
“To give Abby a chance to have a normal life, we have to wake up and embrace every day. Smile, laugh, enjoy life. Even if that isn’t what we want to do.”
Abby learned to do the same, through her parents’ example and in talks about life, especially when remembering Alyssa together.
She also adopted her parents’ work ethic and displayed some of their same athletic talent.
She just applied it to a different sport.
Aaron and Andrea were middle-distance runners at Fresno State in the 1990s. He went on to run for Reebok and competed in the 2000 U.S Olympic Trials in the 800. She competes in triathlons.
Though her parents ran track and field in college and her dad even made the U.S. Olympic Trials, Clovis West’s Abby Samansky preferred to swim.
“I never liked it,” said Abby, who instead has turned into quite the swimmer.
As a freshman, Abby qualified for the state meet in the 50-yard free and 100 back.
She focused on different events this season as she grew stronger and more mechanically sound.
“She’s gone from being a good athlete who was figuring out all the different strokes,” Clovis West coach Adam Reid said, “to an elite high school swimmer.”
Samansky competed this weekend in the 100 and 200 free and on the Golden Eagles’ 200 and 400 free relays.
She advanced to Saturday’s A final (top eight) in the 200 free, finishing fourth in 1:48.76. The 200 relay, with teammates Caitlyn Snyder, Jordan Gruce and Skylar Elkington, placed second in the A final. The 400 relay also placed second. She was second in the B final of the 100.
1:49.25 Clovis West swimmer Abby Samansky’s time from Friday’s preliminary round, which was the fourth fastest and propelled her to Saturday’s final.
Not bad considering Samansky had just the 15th-best time in the 200 entering the meet.
It helped that Samansky waited until this week to taper and shave, key strategies as athletes try to time their peak performances for the biggest meets, rather than for the section championships as some did.
Alyssa was never far from her mind. Abby only had to look at her own hands. Going into the state meet, Samansky painted her fingernails in Alyssa’s favorite color of pink.
“Sometimes when I touch the wall, I think about her and wonder if she would be proud,” Abby said. “I try to keep her memory alive just by being happy.”
Samansky’s parents went on to have another daughter, Audrey, years after the tragedy.
They still celebrate each of Alyssa’s birthdays. And each year, also recognize the day she was taken away.
Now, the state meet has become another annual family affair. Aaron, Andrea and Audrey all planned to watch and cheer Abby from the stands throughout the competiton.
“When I watch Abby compete, I can’t help it, I get so nervous,” Aaron said. “And then I remember that I’m probably way more nervous than Abby.
“She knows what it’s like to be shaken. All this other stuff doesn’t get to her.”