For Northwestern two-sport standout Jaylyn Harrison, it’s easy to pick her favorite moments in swimming and softball, much harder to pick between the two sports. So she’s not going to.
The senior is headed to Bethel University in Mishawaka next school year to study, swim and play softball for the Pilots.
The path that eventually led to Bethel started an an early age, when she followed the footsteps of older sisters Jordyn and Jenna into sports.
“I think from the beginning, my biggest influences were my two sisters,” Harrison said. “Both of my sisters swam and one of them also did softball. I always looked up to them and wanted to do the things they did.”
She followed their lead then made her own name in winter and spring. Harrison is a two-time state finalist in swimming, reaching state in the 50-yard freestyle as a freshman in 2019, then reaching state in the 50 and 100 freestyle events in 2021.
On the diamond, Harrison hit .487 as a junior with 18 extra-base hits and was Northwestern’s primary pitcher. Now Bethel gets both versions of her.
“The reason Bethel stood out to me is first that It was a Christian college,” Harrison said. “Growing my faith is something I am very passionate about. Also they allowed me to do both sports, which is an awesome opportunity. Plus the campus was beautiful and felt like home.
“The reason I wanted to do both sports in college is because I love both of them. I went back and forth between wanting to just do softball or just do swimming. I came to the realization this past summer that I’m not ready to let go of either of them. They’ve both been a part of my life for most of my life and I’ve put a lot of time into them. It just wouldn’t feel right to leave one of them behind.”
Below is a Q and A with Harrison, about the sports she plays and the moments she’s lived.
Q: What’s been the best moment so far in your swimming career?
A: One of my favorite moments was at conference my sophomore year. None of us truly realized we had a chance to win the conference title, but we pulled the win and it’s an excitement I will never forget.
Q: And the same for softball, what’s the best moment so far?
A: My favorite moment in softball was the team’s conference win this past year. Western has always been a team that we struggled to get past, but we finally did. It was awesome to have that graduating class experience the conference win before graduating and because I have been playing softball with them for many years.
Q: Does being in one sport help you in the other — either in physical performance or mental preparation?
A: Absolutely. Swimming makes me so physically strong in ways softball doesn’t, but softball strengthens me in ways swimming does not. I truly believe the beginning of the softball season is when I’m on top of my game the most because I still have my strength from swimming.
Swimming is a huge mental game, and softball can be as well so having time to practice my headspace in one of my sports and translating it to the other helps my physical performance.
Q: You go up against a lot of difficult opponents in the swim season, does any one stand out as an exciting challenge or impressive opponent?
A: My biggest opponent is when we go against Carmel in the sectionals. I absolutely love racing against such great talent. Swimming against girls like Carmel only make me better and that’s why I like it the most. Those girls have also been huge role models for me growing up. I have swam against and with a lot of those fast Carmel girls growing up and I believe It’s an extremely cool experience going up against girls who swim at one of the fastest high schools around.
Q: When you think back to a big meet such as conference, sectional or state, what’s the atmosphere and tension like?
A: The atmosphere at sectionals and state have far more tension than a regular dual meet. This is something that I absolutely love. I’ve always swam better at meets that seem to have more pressure. I truly believe that going to bigger meets and having a change in atmosphere, your mentality changes and it allows you to swim faster.
I love the adrenaline rush of big meets, and I think one of the reasons I enjoy it is because I’ve grown up going to club meets that were pretty big. It’s all about stepping up to the challenge and taking that tension as an advantage to swim faster.
Q: Who has been the best teammate you’ve had and how did that person help you or the team?
A: One of my favorite teammates is a girl I played travel softball with for a year. Her name is Maddie Stacy. She is a senior at Carmel High School. Even in our younger years of softball she was one of the best leaders I knew. She was always encouraging the others on the team and kept a positive attitude no matter her performance. She pushed us to work hard and knew what we were capable of.
Q: What lessons will you take from being involved in high school sports?
A: I will take countless lessons from high school sports. I have learned so much about myself and working with others. I’ve learned to better my attitude and work on my positive mentality not only for sports but life in general. A lot of things go into sports, but most of them are all life lessons. I believe sports have made me a better person and have allowed me to experience things that I wouldn’t have normally without them.