BOULDER — Izzy Woloson is a swimmer.
She is a Boulder Panther.
A typical teenager, and ...
Oh by the way, she has Down syndrome.
On Tuesday night at the North Boulder Rec Center, clad in her purple trench coat with the golden Boulder emblazoned on the back and a tiara to match, Izzy proudly walked with her mother Eliza and father Todd as one of the six Panthers seniors that have left their stamp on Panthers swimming.
"I really love being a part of a team and being a leader," said Izzy, who swims the breaststroke for her squad. "Nothing better than helping people out."
Even before she learned how to walk, Izzy was in the water. It was a place she just felt comfortable; it was therapeutic.
"I think she just loves the feeling of the water against her skin," Eliza Woloson said.
It evolved into a passion and once she got to high school, there was little doubt that she was going to be a part of the Panthers team.
She was welcomed with open arms, first by longtime Panthers coach Curt Colby and most recently by second-year coach Jay Turner, who had the distinction of being able to present his seniors on Tuesday night.
"This team is very unique in that it is very inclusive, and everyone likes to be inclusive, but there are a lot of people with many, many abilities on this team and everybody comes together," said Turner, who almost teared up when talking about Izzy. "Izzy has been a rallying point her senior year and it has just been so much fun to see."
There is so much more to Izzy that just the pool. An aspiring actress and nimble-on-her-feet dancer, Izzy has been in several plays, including "The Wizard of Oz."
It is a passion she hopes to pursue when the steps on the campus of the University of Northern Colorado next fall in Greeley, something her mother has pushed hard for in the last few years.
Eliza Woloson was part of a group that was instrumental in helping pass Senate Bill 196 — it created a pilot program for inclusive higher education for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities — through Colorado's legislature. It was signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper in the spring of 2016 and three schools — UNC, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and Arapahoe Community College — are all participating.
"She's so ready to go to college," Eliza said. "Once she goes, I'll check in on her once in a while, but she is really out of the nest."
Said Izzy: "I'm just looking forward to meeting other people and being a part of another community."
Izzy is also a part of Boulder's Unified basketball team and has been given the nickname "Shake and Bake" by her teammates and the team's followers.
One of her biggest fans and best friends is Gracie Katnik, a Boulder junior, who befriended Izzy last year and they have been nearly inseparable since.
Katnik comes to just about every one of Izzy's swim meets, sits with her in the bleachers and cheers her on while she is competing.
"I always have a friend that I can hang out with before school and after school. She is so supportive and giggly, and doesn't really care how I act," Katnik said. "She is just so positive and fun to be around."
And it that approach Izzy — for whom Todd named his line of sparkling juices after (Izze) — takes to the water with every time. At first it was something she was nervous about, but quickly adjusted to and realized that simply being out there with her friends and teammates was refreshing.
Times didn't matter.
"In high school, people are very self conscious, some will say anxious. And Izzy sets the tone for 'It ain't going to kill you,'" Turner said. "It's okay to be fearless and get in and do your best. And no matter what, your friends and your family still love you.
"And that sets a huge example for a lot of girls on our team."