March 20, 2012 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:33 am
Maybe in a different year, Frida Berggren would have returned to her native Sweden with one, if not more, 5A state titles to cap off an unforgettable year swimming for Lewis-Palmer as a foreign exchange student.
Maybe if the Rangers were still 4A, like they were last year. Or maybe if world record-holder Missy Franklin or top national swimmer Bonnie Brandon weren’t in opposing lanes, which will be the case next year.
Actually, none of that mattered to Berggren.
The easy-going Swede seemed perfectly content to accept a pair of second-place finishes in the 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley along with helping her team place second in the 200 freestyle relay and third in the 200 medley relay at the 5A state meet.
“I’m happy with my times,” said Berggren, who recently turned 18. “Second place is OK. The state meet was really fun, and it was cool to swim at the same meets as Missy and Bonnie. This year went by fast, and I had a lot of fun.”
This was Berggren’s year to shine, to have fun and just be a typical teenager in a faraway place. It was the same plan 29 years ago when her mother, Pia, when she spent a year abroad in the United States as an exchange student herself.
And, thanks to a long-distance relationship, both Pia and Frida stayed with the same host mother, Nancy Turner, the Rangers’ assistant swimming coach and a teacher in Academy School District 20.
Berggren exceeded the lofty expectations set by Rangers coach Alan Arata, who predicted that she would make state-qualifying cuts in all eight individual events.
She did, but also mastered something quite as impressive.
She seamlessly meshed with the tight-knit Lewis-Palmer team from the beginning, adding a genteel temperament that won over classmates and coaches, too.
“None of us really ever thought of her as an exchange student,” Arata said. “Frida can speak English flawlessly, not like a typical exchange student. To us, she was just another member of the team, and that’s the way she wanted it. Plus, she’s very low maintenance and smart. She figures things out and was clever, very easy to coach.”
While Berggren took to the water and team with relative ease, other cultural parts of American life took a little more adjusting.
“At first, it was harder to understand the history class in the beginning,” Berggren said. “It’s better now. I also took photography for a semester and athletic training. Since we don’t have sports in high school in Sweden, I think it’s fun how much sports they do in school here. When you go to a basketball game, the whole school is there. It’s really different, and I’ll miss that when I leave.”
After graduation, the Swede hopes to return to the United States for college.
“That way,” she said. “I can swim with my college since they don’t do that in Sweden.”