When you’re a swimmer named Ursula, the comments are inevitable.
But while “everyone” brings up “The Little Mermaid” with Ursula Andren, the general consensus is that the Gig Harbor High School senior should have been named Ariel.
Similar to the Disney classic’s titular character, Andren’s world is in the water. She doesn’t mind sharing a name with the infamous sea witch, however.
“I love how powerful Ursula is,” she said. “She’s a boss.”
Kind of like Andren, who enters the West Central District III meet as the top qualifier in the 100-yard breaststroke. In Gig Harbor’s first year competing at the Class 3A level, she is looking to “finish with a bang” a year after winning the event at 4A districts — and top her season best of 1 minute, 7.65 seconds.
“It’s really nice knowing I will be finishing my final year working so hard,” said Andren, who is seeded No. 2 in the 50 freestyle (25.67) and will swim on a pair of relays.
Gig Harbor coach Mike Kelly said he expects Andren to “respond to the challenge” this weekend at Mount Tahoma High School.
“Her self-esteem will not allow her to do anything but her best,” he said. “She’s one of those people who loves to race. She takes it personally in her attempt to be the champion.”
Andren said she may at times come across as bossy, but she has the team’s best interests at heart.
“I want to see my teammates succeed,” she said. “I want to see them happy when they get out of the pool.”
Senior Alana Ponce said Andren knows “when to compete — and when to have fun.
“It’s definitely nice to have her as a co-captain because she is willing to get things done.”
A Hawaiian native, Andren was 3 months old when she first dipped her toes in the ocean — and was instantly enamored. By age 3, she was diving for weights, and three years later started swimming competitively. She swam at Junior Nationals in 2015 and competes for the University Place Aquatic Club.
Andren did the breaststroke on Gig Harbor’s 2013 state championship medley relay, which she calls “the most amazing race” she has ever swam.
“Nothing compares to the feeling of winning a state relay with my friends as a freshman,” she said. “I thought that was insane, and so out of my league.”
Andren admitted this season has been an adjustment.
“I’m not able to compete against the girls I’ve been competing against my entire high-school career,” she said of the Tides’ new classification. “It’s a whole new playing field.”
Kelly said he expects Andren to contend for a medal at the state meet, where she placed third in the breaststroke in 2015.
“You talk about forging steel,” he said. “She’s been in the final several times and it makes her stronger each time.”
Andren hopes to swim for an NCAA Division I program, but as one of four children, finances — as well as her intended major of environmental studies — are key components in selecting a college.
Knowing she could be facing the end of her swimming career is “bittersweet.”
“I’ve dedicated so many hours, and years, and so much of my emotional self to this sport,” she said. “It’s pretty much my world.”