Maya Townsend competes on North’s Swim Team


Abbey Kocian

Townsend practicing at the North pool.

Tyler Moore and Erika Chaviano

In her freshman year, Maya Townsend was asked to join the swim team by swim and dive head coach Robert Rooney during her physical therapy in North’s pool. 

“I was surprised because I would never think he would ask me, a person with a disability, to join the swim team,” said Townsend, now a sophomore.

Townsend has cerebral palsy, a condition that makes it difficult for her to walk and communicate.

“My brain is wired differently than everybody else’s,” said Townsend. “It’s the most [different] in the speech part of my brain, but my brain was able to rewire itself so I can talk.”

Physical therapy like swimming and horseback riding help Townsend navigate her disability.

“I love swimming,” said Townsend. “I am free in the water, and I could just float there for hours.”

Rooney saw how often Townsend was swimming for her physical therapy and decided to talk to her about the swim team.

“I thought it would be a neat opportunity for her to be a part of something that was new and different to her, and it would give her an opportunity to be part of something here at school,” said Rooney.

In the spring of 2022, Townsend started the process of joining the swim team as an athlete with a disability.

“It took the rest of freshman year and over the summer to get everything clarified. We’re still trying to get things clarified,” said Townsend.

Part of her process was getting a disability sports classification. Athletes with cerebral palsy receive a classification ranging from one to eight based on the severity of their cerebral palsy to help them compete fairly against other swimmers. Townsend participated in a swim meet with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association to get this classification.

“My classification was a six, so I’ll be going against other people with disabilities with that classification,” said Townsend.

Townsend was able to join the swim team at the beginning of her sophomore year. She works personally with her coach Adrienne Geiseman. Geiseman helps Townsend practice and compete in swim.

“She can’t do everything that everyone else does, so I try to modify [drills] for her,” said Geiseman.

Geiseman has been working with Townsend since her freshman year.

“She’s been consistently improving every week, every meet,” said Geiseman.

The classification process and events like the athletics Black and Blue Night helped her feel comfortable as a member of the team.

“We did a Black and Blue meet where the team was split in two,” said Townsend. “That helped whoever was new to the team get a feel of what [swim meets] look like and how it’s going to go.”

Since then, Townsend has competed in many swim meets for North including the junior varsity conference swim meet on Oct. 22.

“[At Conference] she dropped thirty seconds off her time for the 100,” said Geiseman. “That made me pretty excited, pretty emotional. That was a huge accomplishment for her.”

Townsend will compete in the Sectional meet on Nov. 5 as an athlete with disabilities.

“It’s really cool to see how far I’ve come from the beginning to now,” said Townsend.

Abbey Kocian