Dallastown's Mikaelie Gonzalez doesn't let Type 1 diabetes slow her down
It's not uncommon for swimmers to be sporting electronics on the pool deck. From phones to music players, it's normal to see athletes wearing some kind of device while waiting to swim.
However, in the case of Dallastown's Mikaelie Gonzalez, the device she wears on her hip has nothing to do with getting psyched up to race. Hardly.
Gonzalez wears a OneTouch Ping to monitor her blood sugar level.
Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10, she now tests her blood level before every meal and even between races sometimes to know the proper amount of insulin she needs to ingest based on her diet.
While the monitor is similar in size to a cell phone, it does get noticed on occasion, something Gonzalez doesn't mind.
"At the (YAIAA championship) meet I had it on my arm, and girls were like, 'what is that?' I said, 'This is my diabetes thing,' they were like, 'that's so cool,'" she said. "I love talking about diabetes because so many people don't understand it."
The device is especially important for a sport as grueling as swimming.
"I have to pick, do I want my blood sugar to be perfect or do I want to stay for swim practice?" she said. "If I want to make sure I am high enough for swim practice I will eat a snack at 2 (p.m.). I will normally take a juice box and a granola bar. I want to be high 200s for swimming just because I plummet so much during practice.
"For meets I have a granola bar so I can get through the warm-up, but actually adrenalin from all my events pushes me up high so I will be giving myself a random bolus of insulin so I don't peak."
When things aren't right, Gonzalez symptoms are typical of a Type-1 sufferer, including nausea and/or light-headedness.
"When my blood sugars are high I don't feel good, but when they are low I don't feel good, I feel weak, so I have to find that happy medium," she said. "It's a lot (of work), and it's impossible. After four years I still haven't found it. Some days I go high, some days I go low, it's very frustrating."
Gonzalez hopes to find her "happy medium" at the District 3 swimming championships that take place Friday and Saturday at Cumberland Valley. She qualified for districts individually in the 100-yard butterfly and the 100 backstroke. The senior is also instrumental on relays, where the Wildcats are among the top seeds.
"I love relays, I love working with my team. It puts pressure on you to do better because you are working and swimming for your teammates," she said.
But where some people would let something like this hold them back, Gonzalez is the opposite. In fact, she hopes to study health education, working specifically with fellow diabetics. She plans on heading to Ohio State in the fall, with her first goal is to become a registered dietician.
"My ultimate goal is to become a diabetes educator and get a masters in sports nutrition to tie in my sports background and my passion for diabetes," she said. "The nutritionist I know works with Type 1 and Type 2, I could see working with any type of diabetic, any type of diseases."
Dallastown coach Rich Howley added: "Anybody that is overcoming an obstacle in life I think makes them a better person all around. She does an amazing job and never allows that to be an obstacle. It is what it is, she deals with it daily."
Gonzalez said that in some ways, she is a better athlete because of it.
"I definitely get to see how my body reacts to situations," she added.
Howley said he's never heard her blame a bad swim on her medical issue.
"You know when she is on the block you are going to get everything that young lady has at that moment. You know that is going to be a successful person in life. She doesn't talk about it, she does it.
"She's very mature with how she has handled it from Day 1," Howley said. "She has never missed a practice in four years, mornings, noons, nights, weekends. She's one of four girls (on the Dallastown team) that can say that."
DISTRICT 3 SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS
Where: Cumberland Valley High School
When: Friday and Saturday
Local Top seeds
Class AA girls: York Suburban 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay; West York 400 freestyle relay; Carson Gross (York Suburban) 200 and 500 freestyle; Maelyn Elder (West York) 100 butterfly.
Class AA boys: Matt Spinello (York Suburban) 100 butterfly; Robert Jones (Biglerville*) 100 breaststroke.
Class AAA boys: Alec Peckmann (Central York) 200 and 100 freestyle; Dylan North (Red Lion) 500 freestyle.
Visit www.yorkblog.com/varsity for a complete list of YAIAA participants.
Noon: Class AA girls
2:15 p.m.: Class AA boys
5 p.m.: Class AAA girls
7:30 p.m.: Class AAA boys
10 a.m.: Class AA girls
12:15 p.m.: Class AA boys
3 p.m.: Class AAA girls
5:30 p.m.: Class AAA boys
* Denotes non-swim school