The whistles reverberate off the walls of Las Vegas Municipal Pool during the girls 100-yard breaststroke event.
Joelle Beachler’s head breaks the surface of the water, but the senior swimmer at Legacy barely notices the bird-like chirps of encouragement coming from off in the distance.
“Everything is toned down,” she explains. “It’s a faint sound. I have to really focus on it.”
Beachler has severe bilateral hearing loss, and using the lessons she learned from her daily life, she developed into one of the top breaststrokers in the valley.
Beachler is a two-time qualifier for the Class 4A state swimming and diving meet and will be one of the favorites in her favored event when the Sunset Region meet takes place May 13.
“Swimming is hard work. You’ve got to push through things,” Beachler said. “Sometimes we have our off days, and we have the days where it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to do this.’ But we have to push through that. And in life you have to push through things.”
Beachler’s hearing loss was first diagnosed when she was in fourth grade, according to her mother, Michelle, and got progressively worse. Beachler started wearing hearing aids during her sophomore year.
“I think I cried the day I really kind of knew Joelle really had hearing loss,” Michelle Beachler said. “When I put her in the car and she said, ‘Mom, I can hear a blinker.’ I never knew that my daughter couldn’t hear blinkers.”
Joelle Beachler said she struggles to hear in group and classroom settings and often has to read lips.
At the start of her races, Beachler reacts to the movement of the competitors on either side of her rather than the starter’s signal.
Beachler said her biggest concern about possibly losing her hearing is not being able to play music.
“It’s been hard to work through that, but swimming takes my mind off of that,” she said. “It’s been a challenge I’ve been pushing through and learning how to cope with.”
Beachler, who trains with the Sandpipers of Nevada club program, finished seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke at the state meet as a sophomore for Legacy.
Last year, Beachler was seventh at state in the event with a personal-best time of 1:07.94 after qualifying as the fastest third-place finisher between the Sunset and Sunrise regions.
“She’s definitely an inspiration to these other swimmers,” said Legacy co-coach Marcus Meadow. “They see the work ethic. Joelle is a great swimmer, but as a freshman, she was nowhere near where she is as a senior.”
Beachler will continue her swimming career at the University of Sioux Falls (South Dakota), which is coached by former UNLV assistant Jon Maccoll and in its first season of Division II competition.
Beachler said she plans to become a nurse or possibly an audiologist, inspiring other children with hearing loss.
“I think a lot of people don’t see that kids who have disabilities or hearing loss, they don’t realize they can do that, too,” Michelle Beachler said. “And I think that’s so important for kids to be encouraged with those kinds of things.”
Contact David Schoen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.