Marlins of Mercy: Alex Callaghan


Senior Alex Callaghan poses for a picture before her last ever swim meet in the Mercy pool. Photo by Lydia Giroux

“I started competitively swimming when I was 12 years old at my country club. I tried swimming on a regular club team for a few years but it wasn’t a good fit for me. Swimming with CP—cerebral palsy—made it a challenge to find a team that I felt I could exceed on. Then I came to Mercy and I started to really get into swimming. I felt surrounded by people who were incredibly supportive and I really began to enjoy swimming a lot more.

My junior year came around and I started researching Para Swimming, which is an organization where people with disabilities compete in swimming. It really interested me that I had a new opportunity to swim in the future, something I hadn’t given much thought about. So, I decided to explore it a little further. I had my first Para [Swimming] meet last year in May in Cincinnati. I got classified there, which means you are placed in a certain category of swimmers nationally based on your level of disability. Until this point, I had never been placed into any type of separate group from everyone else on my team. After starting Para Swimming, I wanted to continue swimming after high school because I knew I had more goals to achieve.

I want to go to the Paralympics and I want to get my national cuts for the paralympic trials, so I started doing some more research into schools that I could swim at and pursue a major in business. I found Lynn University in Florida [and] they had a really great business program that interested me and then the swim coach offered me a spot on the team. I was really drawn to both the academic side of the school and the athletics because I found the coach to be really supportive of my situation and I knew their program would be accommodating for me.

I got into swimming just because I could be on a team without people with disabilities. It made me not seem disabled to other people, I guess. I just wanted to find a way to fit in, and coming to Mercy made me realize I actually did have a place on a team. But then I also realized with Para Swimming, I had another place among other people like me. I didn’t have to try to fit in, and I came to understand for the first time that my disability actually allowed me to succeed in a way I hadn’t expected.”