Victoria Duran: The Girl With a Dream

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Commentary by Bailey Duran, Swimming World Intern. 

Victoria Duran is an athlete who eats, sleeps, and breathes swimming. She trains nine times or more a week totaling over 20 hours. She comes up with her own dryland sets to do on her own time and is super strict with recovery and nutrition. She is a dreamer who is putting feet to those dreams.

The Early Years

When asked if she was always this passionate about swimming, Duran just laughs and says, “Absolutely not.” As a young child, she was passionate about dancing. She danced every night to “Lord of the Dance” on VCR and begged to be able to take dance lessons. “I loved river dance and watched it literally every night. I had the dances memorized and was convinced that I was going to be a professional dancer,” Duran says.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Her parents put her in dance lessons at the same time her older sisters began swim team. After a few months of dance lessons, her parents decided that their energetic eight-year old daughter needed to do swim team as well as dance. “Torey was only dancing one night a week,” her mom Candi Duran says, “and I felt like she should join swim team for exercise. I never would have imagined that our little dancer would have become such an amazing swimmer.”

At first, Duran went to swimming just because her parents made her go. For the first couple of years, Duran says that she was the worst swimmer on the team: “I wanted to swim because my sisters did it. I was definitely the worst swimmer on the team. I was the oldest swimmer in my group and was getting destroyed.”

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Her first year of swimming, Duran didn’t even qualify for the league or seasonal state meet. Instead, she watched her sisters swim, sad that she wasn’t able to compete herself. Most people would give up; she, however, wasn’t deterred. She had been bit by the swimming bug at this point and was determined to become great. Duran quit dancing of her own accord and put her whole efforts into her swimming at ten years old.

At this time, she and her sisters switched to another team. Even though the coach didn’t want to take her, she made it onto the team nonetheless. She swam in her own lane with intervals much slower than the rest. She even remembers being lapped on 100s and 200s and would come home crying because of how far behind she was than the other swimmers. This didn’t stop her from dreaming big, though.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Duran recalls the first time she told some of her teammates that she wanted to swim in college and even make it to the Olympics someday: “We were doing starts after practice one day, and the topic of the Olympics came up. I remember telling the other kids that someday I was going to swim at the Olympics. Some of the kids laughed at me and said it would never happen. I was so mad, but it lit a fire in me to work harder and to prove them wrong.”

Hard Work Pays Off

She began going to the pool with her family outside of practice. They gave her tips and cheered her on. With the help of her family and new coach Ian MacLaren, she slowly but surely began to see improvements. The very next year at 11 years old, she qualified for the league meet and for Colorado Seasonal State. A year later, Duran broke the Colorado Seasonal State record in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:11.01 and got second place high-point.

Torey CSI record

Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Duran kept making improvements and decided to become a year-round swimmer so that she could begin taking steps to realize her dreams of becoming an elite swimmer. The long days, hard practices, and early mornings began paying off at fourteen years old. At the Western Slope League meet, Duran qualified for the Colorado Long Course Championships and Arena Western Zones – the first year that she had qualified for a meet faster than Seasonal State. “We knew she was close to qualifying for long course state,” her dad Vic Duran said, “but we had no idea that she was even close to Zones. We were blown away.”

Despite the surprise, her family drove her to California to swim the four events that she had qualified for (1500 free, 800 free, 400 free, and 200 free). After cutting more than a minute, Duran placed fifty-fourth in the mile with a time of 19:08.96, when her time two weeks prior in that event was 20:20.11.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Going to Zones gave her a taste of what it would be like to race at an elite level. The competition wasn’t like anything she had experienced before, and she wanted more. After talking to her parents, Duran made the hard but necessary decision to switch to the Durango Swim Club under Coach Alex Martinek, a more competitive club an hour away from her home in Cortez. “I decided that I wanted to be more competitive and take my swimming to the next level. At that point I was training by myself a lot on my other team, so I wanted training partners and a more competitive coach. It was definitely the right decision.”

Her first season there, she and her relay team qualified for Speedo Sectionals in Phoenix, Ariz. Duran swam on the 800 freestyle relay and was able to swim some time trials. In the 1650 free time trials, Duran had the race of her life and qualified for Sectionals the coming year. She also won the girls’ 13 & 14 200-yard backstroke at the 2017 MAValanche swim meet with a time of 2:15.58.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Once she turned fifteen, Duran really took off. She started training like never before and knew what she had to do to reach her goals. Swimming has become her passion, and she loves every aspect of it.

Duran became the 2018 Western Slope League Champion in the 15 & Over girls 400 free and the 1500 free this summer. She qualified for seven events at Arena Western Zones and placed top 25 in the 800 free with a time of 9:34.72 after cutting 42 seconds. She finished top 18 in 1500 free with a time of 18:23.77. In addition, she has qualified for Speedo Sectionals in three events and is working hard to qualify for Futures this coming year.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

Looking Forward

Duran’s long-term goals are to swim in college (hopefully for Liberty University), qualify for Olympic Trials and just maybe the biggest meet in the world. Duran credits her success to her family, coaches, her teammates, and ultimately, to God.

“He gives me my strength and success,” she says, “and I pray that He’ll give me the opportunity to swim in college and if it’s His will, make it to some of the biggest meets in the world. I couldn’t do it without my faith.” She also hopes to be a positive role model to other young swimmers with big dreams.

What makes Duran different is her unmatched work ethic, positive attitude and her drive to never give up, even when things get tough. Because she had to fight her way from the very bottom, she knows what it’s like to have a dream and to work for it even when it seems nearly impossible.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailey Duran

“I think it’s easier to really work for your dream when you come from the bottom and have to really work your way to the top, because you don’t know any different than working hard and fighting to be better every single day – whether that’s in practice or competition,” Duran says.

As a 15-year old high school freshman with such a fire inside of her, she can do anything she puts her mind to.

Dream big, no matter if you’re the slowest or fastest one in the pool. Put in the work, and someday you’ll amaze yourself by how far you’ve come.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.