Swimming siblings set sights on state

The Redhawks swim team is competing in the 5A Region III finals at the Bruce Eubanks Natatorium on Tuesday. Led by two sisters, senior Maria Oushalkas and freshman Bella Oushalkas, the team has several state contenders. 

But the success of these girls is nothing new, as they have both shined since they first began swimming in what  started out as just another childhood milestone for senior Maria Oushalkas,

I watched other kids kind of struggle and Maria just jumped in and swam with 25 and got out like it was nothing. And from that moment on, she was hooked,

— dad Tom Oushalkas

“We took her to swim classes over at the Frisco Athletic Center. And as we were walking out one day, there was a sign saying, hey, come try out for the summer swim team,” dad Tom Oushalkas said. “Trials are this Saturday kind of thing. I took Maria and they make you do this 25 yard test and I watched other kids kind of struggle and Maria just jumped in and swam with 25 and got out like it was nothing. And from that moment on, she was hooked.” 

With Maria’s early success, Bella would soon follow in her footsteps, maybe even faster than Maria.

“After I started swimming, my parents did the same thing cause I still want to all of us to learn to swim,” Maria said. “But she excelled even faster than I did. “

I just began because Maria started,” Bella said. “So it’s kind of more of a we don’t want you to drown, so you got to learn how to swim.”

The girls would excel in other sports as well, but swimming would be the one they would pursue

“Maria did a lot. First she did karate, different kinds of karate. She did jiu jitsu. She did aikido and then she also did gymnastics,” mom Jhoanne said. So we decided to just pick one and they really liked swimming. So we stuck with swimming.”

The parents both knew the girls would go far, as they would make a name for themselves from a young age. 

“Maria was so motivated in swimming, and she likes to compete, and that’s when it started and so when they were excelling, then we decided to go for a higher level of swimming,” Jhoanne said. “But with that being said, Bella, on the other hand, when we did go for a state meet when she was about six years old and she topped the record for a six year old backstroke, and that’s when we know that she’s going to go farther, too.”

Making state three years in a row, Maria is looking to finish her senior year strong. 

Bella is also looking to make state in her first year of high school with the sisters winning six events including two relays. 

The girl’s growing success continues to surprise to the family

“Ss kids kind of grow, as they mature, as they start to do different things,” Tom said. “You start to see the ebb and flow of success. Right? And through it all, they’ve always worked hard and found ways to to achieve.”

They are so motivated in doing it and they get up in the morning, go for their practices and all of that,

“I think the fact that they are so motivated in doing it and they get up in the morning, go for their practices and all of that,” Jhoanne said. “They’re motivated and pumped up when they go for their meets and stuff. I think that kind of did it. “

For the sisters, they both look to continue their swim journey into the state meet.

“Hopefully the girls relay qualifies and hopefully I make it to state in both events,” Bella said. “Both my events are back to back, no rest in between. And then I have the relay right after. So I don’t really have any expectations. Just hope to make it.”

“Last year I thought I was going to win it. I got humbled really quickly,” Maria said. “So my goal is just a medal, get top three in the two free and then hopefully medal again in the 100 fly. Getting finals in those two or three would be really nice. And then our goal for the relays is to medal if we can because Lubbock is out for those relays, so I think we have a good shot.”

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  • Senior Maria Oushalkas and her sister freshman Bella Oushalkas have been swimming side by side for nearly 9 years, and now they are taking the sister bond to the Redhawk swim team.

  • Building a family like bond between the swimmers has always been a goal of head coach Zachariah Gnoza, and the sisters share a bond like no other.

  • Bella Oushalkas (pictured left) and Maria Oushalkas (pictured right) heading into a swim meet together.

  • Maria Oushalkas (pictured on the right) and Bella Oushalkas (pictured on the left) before a swim meet years ago.

  • Oushalkas has been competing along side her two younger sisters since she can remember. This helps to create that feeling of family both in and out of the pool.

  • Junior Maria Oushalkas competes in the 200 free event, where she has broken multiple school records, including her own. The swimmer recently competed at state, closing out the season for her team.

  • Finishing a lap, Oushalkas is proud of her accomplishments. She feels she has come a long way, breaking multiple school records repeatedly.

  • Oushalkas as a young athlete at practice. In past years, the young swimmer has swam with Texas Ford Aquatics.