Different strokes: Senior Sydney Davenport has shown a love for swimming at West Forsyth, but her passion is equestrian

Published 12:46 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

By Jay Spivey

For the Clemmons Courier

Sydney Davenport is a swimmer on the girls swimming-and-diving team at West Forsyth, but she’s far from just a swimmer.
As a senior, she’s not just confined to the ropes in a swimming pool. She’s also tucked between the barriers of a competition ring of a sport she loves — equestrian.

That’s right. Davenport, who is originally from Michigan, is an avid equestrian from the age of 13, who just happens to be a good swimmer.

“It was my (younger) sister who actually got me into it,” Davenport said. “She kept saying, ‘Well, it was my sport first.'”

Davenport, who is 17, trains, as well as works, at Cash Lovell Stables & Riding Academy in Winston-Salem.

“I’m there about four to five days a week for about, depending on the day, 5 to 12 hours,” she said. “It depends on the day.”
Because she has such a regimented schedule throughout the week, being an equestrian has given her some balance.

“It’s given me something that I’m extremely passionate about,” Davenport said. “It’s very easy to love it, and it’s set up like a schedule for me and given me a pattern to follow, basically for the last four or five years.”

Davenport, who swims mainly the 200 IM at West Forsyth because she’s so versatile in each of the four strokes, loves equestrian so much that she plans to attend Emory & Henry College in Virginia and compete on the equestrian team. After she graduates from college, Davenport hopes to become an elementary or high school teacher.

“She’s one of our captains this year, and she has always been an outgoing person that gets along with all kids,” West Forsyth swimming-and-diving coach Sandy Thomerson said. “I never had any issues at all in boys and girls alike. Sydney’s a good one. That will be awesome for her to do that through college.”

The pool is fun, but equestrian allows Davenport to showcase her true personality.

“It gives me time to myself in a way,” she said. “Because I can be me around my horses and those people.”

She started volunteering at Cash Lovell when she was 12 and started riding about a year later.

“To put it simply, all we do is ride around in a circle,” Davenport said. “But it is much, much more than that.”

It’s become far more than just something for her to do. It’s a true passion.

“When I was about 15 or 16, we got our first horse,” Davenport said. “He struggled. He was impatient, … (and) a scaredy cat. I kind of took him under my wing, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re going to get over some of our fears.’

“Working with him and … figuring out to communicate with him in a language that I don’t speak was very intriguing to me.”

Her horse’s name is Maverick.

“Me and my sister kept riding, and we kept going, and Maverick turned out to be quite the horse,” Davenport said. “He’s super-sweet. He’s super-gentle now. He’s like my little angel.”

Although not officially trained, Davenport just gave Maverick some TLC. It just took some time and tenderness with Maverick.

“I think it took patience and kindness because he came from a place that was not super-great,” Davenport said. “We do a lot of rescuing horses. So, it definitely took a lot of that to do.”

Not to be left out, the Davenports have another horse, and her name is Nutmeg.

“We got her as a show horse in 2021 after, I think it was my second season and my sister’s fourth season,” Davenport said.

Despite her passion for equestrian now, her love as a child was swimming. Part of it was her family – father, Perry, mother, Shawn, and younger sister, Raina, who is now 12 years old, moved to Clemmons from Michigan.

“I’ve been swimming, I think eight years now,” Davenport said. “When I moved down to North Carolina from Michigan, it was kind of like, ‘I might want to try it.’

“But I wasn’t quite into it yet. Then I started on a team in Kernersville on TYDE, and I ended up really enjoying it. And I made some, like one of my best friends. And so, I was, ‘I really want to keep doing this.’ And so, I stuck.”

There were a lot of moving parts to the family’s move here. Davenport was originally in the Parkland district and then moved to the West Forsyth district. Also, she switched club teams from TYDE to Enfinity.

“She was kind of quiet, but she was a gifted swimmer, pretty much all strokes,” Thomerson said. “She made the team right away her freshman year.”

Now, she’s one of the rare swimmers who swims strictly for the high school.

“It’s funny because all (seven) of my seniors are basically, they swim for me at West,” Thomerson said. “…I enjoy it because I see them more often, and I have a little bit more direct control with them over selecting events and (have) relationship with them more because I see them more often.”
Thomerson, who has announced that this will be her final season as the head coach at West Forsyth, swam the 200 IM in high school and college.

“I feel like I can kind of coerce her into it because she was skilled in all strokes,” Thomerson said. “And now I think she likes the event.”

Calling the 200 IM fun, Davenport apparently needed some pushing from her coach. However, she said she’s not a huge fan of the breaststroke.

“I think she knew I’d be better in it than I thought because I definitely did not think that it was going to be a fun thing to swim,” Davenport said. “So, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not swimming that.’ And she was like, ‘You can do it.'”

Davenport sums up herself in one word: sarcastic.

“I think I can be more playfully sarcastic with them (horses),” she said. “With swim, I felt it was always like they didn’t think I was joking sometimes. But people at the barn see that you’re, ‘Oh, you’re just kidding.'”

With four girls and three girls graduating, they all get to get out at the same time as Thomerson.

“She’s just so encouraging,” Davenport said of Thomerson. “And she has truly like been a coach that’s felt like a coach.”

West Forsyth’s first meet was Friday, so Thomerson and Davenport have both thought about what it’s going to be like when the season ends.

“It’s just a different element, like even being at a meet all weekend (club meet with TYDE in Cary), but high school is a whole different animal,” Thomerson said. “It’s just so fun because it doesn’t matter if you swim for TYDE or Enfinity or Triton Aquatic Club because you’re all West Forsyth High School swimmers. And I absolutely love the camaraderie that those kids have together on West.”

Davenport knows that the season will end in February, and she will graduate from West Forsyth in June.

“It’s exciting, but it’s scary,” she said. “Oh my gosh, this is becoming real. Especially because I had just gotten into my top choice of college (Emory & Henry). So, now it’s becoming like this is real, I’m graduating. I’m a big girl now.”