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Hero of Summer: Meredith Ashooh, the Lifeguard

She's vigilant about enforcing rules and saving lives



"Oh, hey, great! It's summer!" you're thinking. "Time to shotgun a few beers, do a flip off the high dive while trying to catch a poorly thrown ball, and then see how long I can hold my breath under water." Classic summer.

Hear that noise? That's the sound of SwimAtlanta lifeguard Meredith Ashooh's whistle trying to get your attention and help you not die.

"The biggest rule is that you can't let people do flips off of here," she says referring to the pair of 3-meter high-dives at Emory University's Student Activity and Academic Center where she works as head lifeguard. "A lot of the college guys want to show off, so this is one of the higher risk areas. When you're at this [lifeguard] stand you've really got to be vigilant about enforcing rules."

The biggest mistake people make around pools? Drinking and swimming (which is prohibited at the SAAC), "because you overestimate your abilities when you drink." That's what she said. Literally.

With approximately one million gallons of water in the 50-meter Olympic-size pool and around 400-800 visitors a day during peak season, Ashooh has to stay alert — and fit.

"I work out a lot; lots of swimming to keep my endurance up. The majority of my training is weightlifting. I can deadlift 250 pounds. I can bench-press at about 120 pounds. I can back squat 200," says the 23-year-old nursing student and certified EMT.

Just the Red Cross certification alone to become a lifeguard involves a 30-hour course and a series of tests, including treading water for two minutes without using your hands and the "infamous brick test, which is a timed event. You dive down to the bottom of the deep end, get a 10-pound brick, and swim back with it holding it above the water," she explains.

Every day when Ashooh gets to work, she grabs her keys and waterproof radio and walks around the pool checking for broken tiles and glass. But even once the pool's opened for the day, "I never sit. I'm constantly walking around the pool so I can get the best view of what's happening all the time," she says. "I'm the head guard here so I have to be very, very strict, especially with a pool of this size. I'm very alert and very stern because I supervise the other guards as well, so I have to set a good example."

Ashooh, who goes through more than 20 bottles of sunscreen a season, counts herself lucky to have a job where she gets to work outside and help people, even if it means constantly telling them what they shouldn't be doing.

"It's a very relaxed job until something happens," she says. "I always tell my guards, if you're bored you're doing it wrong."

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