When we heard the news last night, we felt numb like many others; another young swimmer’s life had come to an end.

This time it was Vance Sanders of Clearwater Aquatic Team, who was one of our favorite swimmers, often joining our broadcast alongside SwimmerJoe:

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It’s difficult. How do you wrap your head around the fact that such a vibrant, live-out-loud personality will no longer be on deck? How do we rectify the fact that such a fierce competitor in both fly and backstroke will no longer line up behind the blocks?

Swimmers are never one-dimensional. Each one of you brings an extremely complex world of personality, swagger, and work-ethic in addition to being a beloved son, brother, nephew, teammate, friend, and student.

Vance was all of these and more.

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We will remember Vance as a wonderful competitor, an amazing swimmer, and an incredibly sweet and kind boy. We will focus on the fact he always had a smile for us, even after the toughest of swims. A stand-out swimmer and high school All-American, Vance was ranked 3rd in Florida and 26th overall by CollegeSwimming.com.

Vance was Swimming World’s “Swimmer of the Night” after the 200 Fly at FLAGS, where he impressed Olympian Elizabeth Beisel who was commentating along with James Bates for us here at Florida Swim Network. Elizabeth even compared Vance’s fly to Michael Phelps’.

Vance also talked with SwimmerJoe at the Orlando Grand Prix, giving insight into his mental preparation before a tough swim:

And as Vance said in the interview with SwimmerJoe, Coach Randy Reese provided a training environment where he excelled.

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Death never makes sense, especially when it happens to somebody so young. It is also difficult since Vance took his own life. We may never be able to understand why certain things occur, but what we can be certain of is that Vance personified the pure energy that makes some swimmers excel in the water. What is also certain is that we will focus on the way Vance lived life, rather than how it ended.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the Sanders family and the entire Clearwater Aquatic Team, and we know the greater swim community will provide them with support during this difficult time.

It is once again evident that we truly are one big swim family, coast to coast, Panhandle to the Keys.  Last night as coaches called each other to break the news, wanting each to be able to tell his or her team in their own way, we all felt like we had experienced the loss.

Hug a teammate, thank a coach, give a kind word to the swimmer in the lane next to you. And, most of all, remember Vance’s infectious smile and maybe dedicate your next set to him.

We’ll miss you, Vance!