What is it like to swim in college? College recruiting can be stressful and confusing for high school student-athletes across America. As commitments start to come in earlier and earlier, we asked three current collegiate swimmers about their experiences. These swimmers represent a Power Five D-I school, a Mid-Major D-I school, and a D-III school. We asked them to not only reflect on their experiences, but also to give advice to the next generation of swimmers.
School: Kenyon College
Hometown: Pepper Pike, Ohio
High School: Hawken
A big contributor to Kenyon’s runner up finish at NCAA, Crile won NCAA D-III titles in the 100 and 200 backstroke and became the first person to win both events since 1999. She also won the 200 IM and was a part of the winning 400 medley relay and runner up 400 and 800 free relays. She was also named the NCAA DIII Athlete of the year and broke the meet record in the 200 back.
School: Ohio State
Hometown: Willoughby, Ohio
High School: Mentor
Maria is an Academic All-Big Ten and OSU Scholar Athlete. For the past two years she has made it to D-I NCAA Championships for the 200 free relay, which placed 7th at the 2018 championship. Over the past 3 years she has had several high placing finishes at the Big Ten Championship including 1st place in the 200 free relay.
School: College of William and Mary
Hometown: Chagrin Falls
Highschool: Hathaway Brown
Mary is a junior sprinter at the College of William and Mary. She is also a LEAD Sports Summit Intern who contributes to the LEAD Blog and social media.
Why did you decide to swim in college?
CH: Swimming has always been the one sport I’ve stuck with. It has always been a huge part of my life, and I think I have always known that I would want to continue swimming in college.
MC: Swimming has always been a large part of my life. I started swimming on a rec team when I was 9 or 10, and basically never looked back. I knew I wanted to swim at an elite level early on (12 or 13 probably) so swimming in college was never really a question or goal, just more of an expectation and something to look forward to after high school.
MM: Swimming has always been such a big part of my life and I couldn't imagine stopping after my senior year of high school. I knew that I wanted swimming to be a big part of my college experience.
What were some of the reasons why you chose the school/division that you did?
CH: During my search process Kenyon College continued to be at the top of my list and the school that I compared my other visits to. I knew I wanted look at Division 3 schools and what I found at Kenyon was the perfect balance of academics and athletics that I was looking for. I had formed amazing friendships with the coaches and teammates before I even committed there. I was beyond ecstatic to continue my next four years there!
MC: I knew Division 1 was for me because I wanted to be more of a “small fish in a big pond.” Growing up competing on a small club team and a high school team where I was the only state qualifier all four of my years there, I knew I wanted to try new things and be a part of something way bigger. I think I knew Ohio State was the place for me early on; I emailed with the coaches starting early in high school and they recruited me quickly when I became eligible for phone calls. Although I was more of a “developmental” athlete going into OSU, they saw potential in me and I have grown an astonishing amount in my three years here, in the pool and as a person. I visited four big ten schools, but I have always been a buckeye fan and it was a dream come true to commit here!
MM: I knew when looking for schools I wanted a balance between academics and swimming. For me, I believed that a mid-major D1 school could give me that balance. I wanted to make sure that I was a student before I was an athlete, and that I would be able to participate in other activities within the school. I chose William and Mary not only because I was looking for a midsized school that valued academics, but because of some of the amazing people that I met on my recruiting trip as well. I immediately felt like I could see myself on the campus and apart of the team.
What is your favorite part of college swimming?
CH: I have never been a part of a team so wonderful in my entire life! All the members of the team became as close as family in a blink of an eye. I am so grateful to have experienced my first year of college swimming with the individuals I did. Thank you to every single one of the Kenyon Swimming and Diving members and coaches this year!
MC: My favorite part is the team aspect. Like I mentioned before, I was only ever part of smaller teams. I had very close friends and I loved my teams, but swimming at OSU is unlike anything else I've ever experienced. These girls are my family and my life, and it is so amazing to know we all do this for each other and constantly have each other’s backs. The team here is truly unique, and I absolutely love representing all of Buckeye nation when I compete!
MM: The friendships that you make and the sense of purpose and team comradery that has come with swimming in college. Everyone wants to see each other get better and it has been such an amazing experience feeling like I am a part of something truly larger than myself. Not only am I representing my coaches and my teammates, but also William and Mary and everyone that has any ties to the school. It really is such an amazing experience.
How was the transition from USA/High school swimming to college swimming for you?
CH: My high school and USA teams were very similar. I swam at the same pool year-round, had the same coaches, and swam with the same teammates. I didn’t find the transition to college swimming too difficult even though I was completely changing my environment. I think I was mostly just excited!
MC: I started swimming doubles during the summer when I was as young as 13, continuing in the school year starting in high school, so I think as far as the workload goes, the adjustment wasn't too bad. I have also only ever swum year-round, unlike some other multisport athletes, so I think that made the transition easier. The hardest part was just learning how to manage school with all the workouts, and still try to find a little time for yourself. It just took some learning, but I couldn’t be happier here.
MM: Pretty seamless! I was nervous about adjusting to a new coaching style, but it really wasn’t that hard. Everyone on the team wants to make the transition as easy as possible for the freshman and that really stood out to me. I really enjoy how college swimming takes the best parts of high school swimming and the best parts of USA swimming and puts it all into one.
How was your recruiting process?
CH: My recruiting process was like any other swimmer hoping to commit to a school early in their senior year. I took my official visits in the fall and debriefed with my family afterwards. Deep down, I always knew Kenyon was the place for me, so the final decision wasn’t too difficult. I couldn’t wait to make it official!
MC: I started emailing with some schools earlier in high school, mostly reaching out to them myself. Coaches have SO many athletes to keep track of, I always found it very helpful for them when I would email first and introduce myself. I kept in contact with a handful of schools including OSU up until we could answer phone calls in July before senior year (as it was back then). I spoke to numerous coaches on the phone and narrowed it down to visiting four big ten schools, but deep down I knew this is where I wanted to go, and it wasn't a hard choice at all.
MM: Not too bad! I pretty much started my recruiting process during the beginning of my junior year and it started really picking up the summer before my senior year. I found it interesting that for myself, many of the schools I began talking to at the beginning of the process where not the schools I took recruiting trips on in the fall of my senior year. I took 4 trips and even though they were exhausting; it was such a cool experience. I know I often felt pressure from everyone else around me that was committing, but I am glad that I took all those trips.
Any advice for someone about to go through the process?
CH: If you are starting the college search process and are thinking of continuing swimming in college, the one thing that I think is the most important for anyone is communication. Keep healthy communication with your parents about what you are thinking. Maintain constant communication with any schools you are interested in, that helps keep you on their radar. If you have a college counselor, communicate all your questions or concerns with them; they are very helpful! Communicate with your coach at home, they know you in the pool better than anyone. Communication is key!
MC: Don’t be afraid! Of anything! Reach out to coaches first, they really appreciate it. Ask a ton of questions, to coaches and especially the girls on the current teams, we've all been through the process and we’re just here to help!
MM: Remember to keep your mind open and don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone! Ask lots of good questions, and make sure you do your research not only on the school, but on good questions to ask as well. Remember to talk to your loved ones because they are there to support you through this. But remember at the end of the day, this is your college decision and not anyone else’s! Follow your own timeline and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing around you.
Do you have any advice for someone not sure if they want to swim in college?
CH: If you are leaning towards not swimming at the college level but want to continue the sport in some form see if the school has club swimming. If not, see if you can start the club yourself! If you are leaning towards continuing it but not sure if you want to swim all four years that’s fine! If you think you want to quit at some point just make sure to communicate with the coach! They have your best interest at heart!
MC: Know that if you decide to swim in college, it is TIME CONSUMING. It is not for those unwilling to work hard in AND out of the pool. Managing school and swimming is a CHALLENGE, but it is beyond worth it if you truly love it. The experience is unparalleled to anything else in life you will ever have. It will truly be the best four years of your life. The memories, lessons and relationships will last forever.
MM: Remember to look at a school from all sides, not just the swimming aspect of it! There are always many different levels of swimming within D1, D2, and D3 schools but many of those schools also have awesome club teams as well! Do what makes you happy at the end of the day. My twin brother didn’t think he wanted to swim in college at the beginning of his senior year of high school but ended up having a breakthrough year. At the end of March, he reached out to the coach at the school he was attending and asked if he could join and he was able to. This past year my brother was on the conference team for WashU and has really loved his experience. But he went a very different route to swimming in college than I did, and we are both very happy with our teams.
One word to some up your experience so far?