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Young Lake Ontario swimmer dreams big

TORONTO - She’s the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario, has raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars to help kids with cancer and still manages to get her homework done on time.

Annaleise Carr’s determination captured the country’s attention as she ploughed through churning waters for nearly 27 hours while swimming from Niagara on the Lake to Toronto this summer. But the 14-year-old’s ability to successfully juggle her training, speaking engagements and school is just as impressive.

Although her life has become even more hectic since her time in the spotlight, the teen from Walsh, Ont., says she has no intention of slowing down.

“I’ve always loved long-distance swimming and swimming in the lake, so for sure I want to keep doing it,” she tells The Canadian Press.

“I’m a lot busier now, a lot, lot busier…. But it’s fun.”

The Grade 9 student admits she misses a fair bit of school due to her busy schedule, but says she always takes her work on the road and is able to return to the classroom without feeling like she’s fallen behind.

For Carr, efficient time management is key.

“I’ve been swimming since I was really little so I’ve always had to balance stuff out,” she says.

The idea for Carr’s swim across Lake Ontario grew out of a visit to Camp Trillium, which supports children with cancer. Carr toured the camp before a 10-kilometre group swim to raise funds for the facility and felt the urge to do more to help. When she was told she couldn’t volunteer at the camp until she was 18, she brainstormed other ways to contribute.

“Swimming kept coming into my head because I’ve been swimming for so long,” she recalls. “Then I remembered one of the guys who did the 10k swim with me, he jokingly said that I should swim the lake and that he expects big things from me.”

While she set her original fundraising goal at $30,000, Carr has since managed to raise about $240,000 for Camp Trillium.

That amount didn’t come easily.

“There were two parts that I found really difficult,” Carr says of her Lake Ontario swim. “One was that you can see Toronto all the way from Niagara on the Lake and it never looks like it’s getting closer, and another was during the night I had five to six foot waves pushing me back the whole time.”

The towering waves — which were much higher than expected — pushed Carr off course and lengthened her swim. There were moments when she considered giving up, but they were fleeting.

“When I got tired and would think about quitting, I would just keep thinking about what I was doing it for and the kids at Camp Trillium,” she says, adding that she continuously told herself to "just keep swimming."

With all her energy focused on making it to shore, the moments after she climbed out of the water are a blur. But there’s one feeling Carr remembers.

“I was really hungry,” she says with a laugh.

With the Lake Ontario swim under her belt, Carr says she’s been encouraged to attempt swimming across the English Channel next, but she hasn’t made a decision on that yet. She has also been nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Association’s Woman of the Year and is the only Canadian on the list.

For now, however, her plans for 2013 include keeping up with her class work and perhaps swimming across Lake Erie this summer with a few colleagues.

“It’s just going to be for fun,” she says of the planned crossing. “It would take less than my last one did.”

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