Student-athlete celebrates championship win
Emily finishes off her last season as a U.Va. swimmer with winning the ACC Championship for the fourth time.
This past weekend, I competed at my fourth ACC Championship meet as a fourth year captain of the UVa swim team. I won my fourth team championship in four years and am now part of a dynasty that has won seven straight. In my entire time as a UVa swimmer I can count on one hand the number of meets I have ever lost. When framed in this way, winning seems easy. There is nothing further from the truth.
Personally, my four years of swimming for UVa have been a combination of ups and downs in the water and emotional highs and lows. There are races and meets that I wish I could omit from my memory and those that I want to relive again and again. This past weekend was definitely one of the latter. It is difficult to put into words exactly what it is that makes a team special. Clearly, success is a crucial piece of the puzzle. But in terms of championships won, each of the four UVa women’s teams in my four years has been successful. This team is different. There is a reason why I swam races this weekend that I never imagined I could, and it had little to do with swimming itself. It has everything to do with my UVa family.
UVa swimming has always prided itself in its family atmosphere, and I have never felt that vibe as strongly as I did this weekend. Swimming is frankly a very boring sport; you move from wall to wall along a black line and hope to move a little faster each time you dive in the pool. What makes this sport enjoyable are the people with whom you spend those hours swimming back and forth. I have always known that, and I have been a part of the UVa swimming family for almost four years now, but I never fully understood that feeling until this past weekend. Swimming for your family means that when you dive in the pool, you feel the weight of your entire team on your back and rather than burying you with pressure, this weight pushes you forward. There is a clear difference between a team and a family. Swimming for a team means that individually you must earn a certain time or place in order to help the team succeed. Swimming for a family means that you are swimming with the energy of 36 of your sisters inside of you so that you simply cannot fail. The difference between the bad meets and the great ones are the memories of the people I will cherish forever.
Whether it’s the flashbacks to that split second I step onto the block and hear my team screaming, the dancing to our favorite song during warm-ups, or the countless inside jokes we share as teammates throughout the season, when I look back on my four years in swimming—and this weekend in particular—my brain remembers people, not races. These people and this family is what makes winning seem so easy. This family is what gives us all pride in ourselves, our team and our University. This family is what builds success and it is what separates UVa swimming from the rest of the ACC and even the rest of the country.
As I look forward to my last weeks as a college swimmer, I know to cherish these precious last moments, but I also know that as a member of this family, I will never truly leave. Membership into the UVa s’women dynasty is for life. Our team would not be where we are now without the women who swam before us and our 7-peat this past weekend belongs to each and every one of us—past, present and future.