Coming to college, I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to swim. Even though starting out freshman year I had already swum year-round for about ten years, I can remember how nervous I was the first day of practice with the Carnegie Mellon team. Everything was new to me; it was a new school, new pool, new teammates, and new coaches. Little did I know at that moment that I was beginning the best four years of my life with my new family.
On campus, I immediately felt a connection to the other student-athletes. All of the student-athletes know what it’s like to have to manage their time very well, to show up and perform their best every practice and competition, and to often go above and beyond what’s expected of them. Because of this, I was constantly surrounded by people on the team who are extremely driven. They inspired me to be the best athlete and student I could be, and they were always willing to help me when I needed it.
The friends I’ve made on the CMU team are friends who I’ll undoubtedly keep for life. The excitement and nerves I felt when I stepped on the blocks for a race at an end-of-the season meet was just as intense, if not more, than when one of my teammates was stepping on the blocks. The team was a second family to me; everyone wants each other to succeed and to see their teammates’ work pay off because we’ve all been through the preparation together.
When my alarm went off at 5 a.m. for morning practices, there were times when the personal excuses tried to squeak their way into my mind and keep me in bed: “I’m too tired,” “I have too much to do,” or “It’s too cold outside.” But ultimately, I’d set those aside and get excited for practice because I knew that this team was much greater than myself. Being on the swim team made me not only want to push myself to be the best I could be but also push my teammates to be the best they could be. In my first years on the team, I had outstanding leaders who I could look up to. I remember one particular set of sprint stroke 100’s that I was having a hard time getting through in Miami my freshman year, and I had teammates to my left and right telling me in-between breaths to keep it up and not to give up. If I decided not to swim at CMU, I wouldn’t be graduating as the person I am now. The support I’ve gotten both in and out of the pool from my teammates and coaches has challenged me to push the limits of what I think I’m capable of.
CMU is an incredible place. The professors I’ve met here, the opportunities I’ve been given, and the experiences that I’ve had in one of the best cities in the nation are unparalleled. More than anything, though, it was my experience on the CMU swim team which has empowered and shaped me the most over the past four years. I didn’t just become a better athlete. I became a better teammate, leader, student, and friend, and I’d do it all over again if I could.