Lauren Swindle never intended to play four varsity sports her senior year at Trinity.
Her plan — she always has a plan — was to continue in volleyball in the fall, swimming in the winter and then savor her final soccer season in the spring after losing her junior season to the coronavirus pandemic.
For a brief moment this winter, she considered joining the girls wrestling team, the first in school history, but ultimately decided against it.
“I was tempted,” Swindle said. “I could do that.”
It wasn’t until Trinity girls basketball coach Connor Grumich came to her and made his pitch that Swindle changed her plan.
With five girls on the team, the Titans needed at least one more to have any sort of legitimate chance at a season. Swindle played on the junior varsity as a freshman, but gave it up to swim as a sophomore and junior. Now, Grumich was asking her to sacrifice for the greater good.
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Trinity needed her.
Swindle couldn’t refuse.
“I decided to be full time for basketball and come to swim meets when I could,” Swindle said. “I really enjoyed playing basketball.”
It would have been easy to be miserable. Trinity lost its first 16 games and finished the season 1-18. The Titans scored 20 or fewer points eight times. On January 26, they lost to Cardinal Ritter 56-2.
Swindle, 18, made the most of it. At 5-foot-4 she’s on the smaller side for guards. At Trinity she was one of the taller girls on the roster and played in the post. She averaged 10.1 rebounds per game and hauled in a career-high 19 against Valley Park.
“We fought every game,” Swindle said. “That’s all we could ask for.”
Mere days after the basketball season ended, the Archdiocese of St. Louis announced Trinity would close at the end of this school year. It was a gut punch for the community, but it landed particularly hard on Swindle.
“It’s like when someone dies, the seven stages of grief,” Swindle said. “We’ve all accepted it and are moving on.”
Trinity’s roots are Swindle’s roots. Trinity was formed when St. Thomas Aquinas, Mercy and Rosary high schools were merged into one in 2003. Two of Swindle’s siblings, her mother, aunt, two uncles and six cousins all attended Trinity or the schools that became Trinity.
“My whole dad’s side went to Mercy or Aquinas-Mercy, my mom’s side were all Rosary,” said Emily Seithel, Swindle’s older sister and Trinity’s volleyball coach the last two years. “(Lauren) wanted to go there and excel and make a name for herself, even more so than my brother and I.”
Swindle has done that and then some. Trinity’s Post-Dispatch Scholar Athlete, Swindle has become the face of her school in her time.
Swindle was featured prominently in promotional materials for Trinity. She’d show up in the mail box, in email inboxes, on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re connected to Trinity you have seen Swindle.
“It's endless,” Seithel said with a laugh. “She’s everywhere.”
Swindle has accumulated 220 service hours in high school. She volunteered at open houses, trivia nights and auctions at Trinity.
Academically, Swindle aggressively pursued the most rigorous classes she could handle. As a junior, she took Spanish, history, math and literature courses that count toward college credit. As a senior, she took another round of Spanish, math and literature for more college credits.
When she arrives on campus at Rockhurst University in the fall she’ll have banked enough credits she’ll practically be a sophomore.
Swindle had the inklings of this plan back in eighth grade. She knew she wanted to maximize her opportunities at Trinity. If there was a chance to get college level credits without having to pay a full college rate, she was going to make it happen.
“You’re able to get things done at a cheaper cost,” Swindle said.
Aside from school and sports, Swindle has had a steady job most of her time in high school. She worked at Dairy Queen for more than three years, did a stint at the Bellefontaine Neighbors Community Center and briefly at a golf course. She recently started a new job with Old Navy.
“She’s absolutely unbelievable,” Trinity soccer coach Don Schmidt said. “Her work ethic, morals and attitude, for a kid today it’s remarkable.”
Swindle has played varsity soccer all four years at Trinity. She started as a striker, but this year the team needed her to move into the midfield. She did so without hesitation and has continued to be an offensive spark as she’s scored eight goals and handed out six assists.
Schmidt knew Swindle was unique when she was a freshman. He paired her with fellow freshman Jada Vence and hoped the two of them would develop the unspoken chemistry that comes playing together over time.
At one point during that season, late in a game, Schmidt looked for his forwards only to find them laying on the field. They hadn’t asked to be subbed out. They hadn’t pleaded for a break.
“They played to exhaustion,” Schmidt said. “They gave everything they had. That’s who she is.”
Swindle will continue pouring herself into school. She plans to double major in psychology and criminal justice with a minor in forensic science. She’s contemplating a career in law enforcement and has done a few ride-alongs with the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department and toured the local Federal Bureau of Investigation office.
“It was really eye-opening and I think it was interesting,” Swindle said. “I’ve got an idea of what that career can consist of.”
Her college coursework will come at a cost. Swindle plans to give up competitive sports. She had some opportunities to play volleyball in college as a libero. Schmidt is convinced she’d be a good soccer player at that level. But Swindle wasn’t all in on playing and she didn’t feel it was right to pursue it if she wasn’t committed to it.
“I wasn’t in that head space, I wasn’t 100 percent sold,” Swindle said. “I wanted to make sure it was something I wanted to do. It’s definitely bittersweet. It’s going to be a new chapter.”
Swindle’s new chapter will begin as the only school she ever wanted to attend is shuttered. To be part of Trinity’s final graduating class seems appropriate. Swindle is the walking embodiment of all the traits Trinity wanted its students to emulate.
“It’s uncanny,” Schmidt said. “She is a Titan.”