About a year and a half ago, Raleah Cole was looking for a sport that she would enjoy. She is tall—standing at 5’9"—she is lean, and she is athletic, which would naturally lead her to track or basketball. But she just did not enjoy playing those sports.
A coach spotted her near a pool, and figured with her long frame that she would be perfect for swimming. A year and a half later, at the age of 13, she is one of the fastest 50-meter freestylers in the nation for her age group, swimming for the Royal Swim Team in Culver City. After starting out at the bronze level, which is for beginners, she skipped bronze-2, swam at pre silver for a short period of time, before being elevated right past gold to pre-sectional gold. A jump like that is pretty rare, as she has friends who took several years to make it to the level that she is currently.
Swimming was not on Cole’s radar before that day when she was spotted by the swimming coach, and she did not expect to make that type of jump so quickly.
“I’m doing better than I ever thought I would,” Cole said. “I feel really accomplished. I always knew that I wanted to do a sport, but I never knew that it was going to be swim. I feel really proud of myself.”
Cole is a sprinter due to her length and strength which allow her to move through the water at a fast pace. Her coach is training her to compete in distances up to 500 meters, which she will need more endurance for. She has come a long way from a year and a half ago, and it was not easy from the beginning.
“Swimming took a lot of getting used to,” Cole said. “It was really hard. The workouts had a lot of sets, a lot of kicking, a lot of balancing. It was really hard.”
When Cole tells her friends what practice is like, they are shocked to hear her workload, and she is training six days a week. All of that hard work may pay off with a trip to the Olympics one day, and as 2016 is her favorite number, sheb has aspirations to compete in the upcoming games.
Cole is an honor roll student at Culver City Middle School, where social studies is her favorite subject. The most intriguing time period to her is the American Revolutionary War.
“I like learning about history,” Cole said. “I like to learn about world history, and how things came to be what they are now. I just love stuff like that.”
Cole’s goal is to attend USC or Stanford, and continue swimming on the college level. She wants to become a FBI investigator after her swimming career is over.
Cole’s parents have been an inspiration to her, as her father, Robert Cole, graduated from Morehouse and her mother, Dr. Karen Cole, graduated from Stanford University. Her father envisioned her excelling at sports when she was a young child, but he did not know which one.
Robert Cole was really surprised to see his daughter win her very first race, and he cheers her on as she wins a lot of her races by two to three body lengths.
“I’m proud that she’s doing something that will help her uniquely stand out as an African American girl,” he said. “She’s one of the very few who is out there, and she’s very good.”
As excited as Cole’s parents are about her new found athletic abilities, they have made sure that she balances her sport with her academics.
“She’s really focused,” Cole said. “She understands that anybody can be good at swimming, or basketball, or football, but only a few excel at a school like Stanford or USC. She understands that as much time and energy that she puts in for swimming, she has to also do for school.”
Cole has a bright future in front of her, and she is an asset to the African American community.