State champion swimmer and accomplished student is headed to Notre Dame
VANCOUVER — When he breaks it down, by the hour, he realizes just how hectic is his schedule.
When he counts the weeks on the calendar when he is in the swimming pool, he notices the commitment.
When he takes an extra class in school, he understands that will take another hour out of the day.
All of it is demanding, grueling.
All of it is part of Josh Bottelberghe’s path.
A successful athlete and student, he finds a way to make it all work.
He excels in the classroom, part of Columbia River High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program. He excels in the pool, too, one of the top swimmers in the state.
Combining the two, Bottelberghe is prepared to excel in college after earning a substantial athletic scholarship to attend Notre Dame University.
Of course, he knew long before his own high school days of the challenge that was ahead of him. It is, after all, a family tradition: Sheri and Rolland Bottelberghe have had three children shine at Columbia River.
Jessica completed the IB program at River and went on to swim at Boise State. Monica did the same thing and is now in her senior year at Boise State.
This is it, though, for the family at Columbia River. Josh is the youngest, and he is preparing for his final two weekends of high school swimming, hoping to earn more state championships with the Chieftains.
Before looking ahead, he took some time to look back, at the very beginning of his swimming career.
“I threw a little bit of a tantrum,” Josh Bottelberghe recalled that first day when he was 5 years old.
Since then, he has always come back on his own.
“It wasn’t a choice to start, but it’s always been my choice to continue,” he said. “As soon as I started swimming, I never looked back.”
For the dedicated swimmer, that means he is “in” one of his seasons for about 48 weeks out of the year. There is the winter club season, which typically goes from September through March. Plus he has his high school season, which goes from November until February. Then there is the summer season, April to early August.
“When people ask when is swim season, I say it’s a lot easier to say when it’s not,” Bottelberghe explained.
Every season has a purpose, though.
“It’s great to see how it all comes together at the end of a season. It’s a great life lesson, building toward something.
“You see your progress over time. I love the process of it. It keeps me going. There is a momentum to it, I guess.”
One could say the same thing about his academics, too. He gives a nod to his sisters for leading him in that direction, as well.
“I’ve always liked being around the academically motivated mindset,” he said. “It is a whole lot of work. But you build a community within the IB program. You rely on each other.”
It also makes for a chaotic winter for Bottelberghe.
A typical day starts with a wake-up prior to 5 a.m. so he can get to high school practice by 5:15 a.m. School starts at 7:30 a.m. As an IB student, he takes an extra class after school that takes him to 3 p.m. Club swim practice starts at 4 p.m., and two times a week, the club practice lasts three hours instead of two.
“I tend to be good at getting my homework done during school. With a schedule like this, I have to manage my time. I have to prioritize,” he said. “I can’t procrastinate.”
In what little free time he did have, he used to play video games. Not as much anymore.
“I needed to do something more to better myself,” he said.
So he taught himself how to play the guitar, with the help of YouTube videos.
As far as swimming, he is a natural. Bottelberghe has won back-to-back state titles in the 100 breaststroke. He also won the 200 freestyle last season. And he and his teammates took the title in the 200 free relay in 2017, as well.
Yes, he wants to repeat as an individual champion, but he would prefer a team championship in his final season.
“To say we won a banner would mean a lot more to me,” Bottelberghe said. “I have personal goals, but it’s all about the team.”
He will be joining a new team next school year, heading to South Bend to join the Irish. He signed his letter of intent in November. It was after he gave a verbal commitment when he realized what it meant to be part of Notre Dame.
“I started to realize how big of a deal it was,” he said. “I felt really lucky that it’s part of my future.”
In the pool and in the classroom, Josh Bottelberghe has prepared for this future his entire life.