I grew up in Hershey, Pennsylvania, aka Chocolatetown USA. I joined the swim team when I was 6 years old (mostly because my older brother did it and I had to do whatever my older brother was doing), although I quit for a year because I hated being cold and shivering in the water. I tried a few other sports in the meantime – tee ball, ballet, gymnastics, soccer – but, nothing quite stuck the same way, and once I learned that my best friend was swimming on the team and having a blast, I begged my parents to let me rejoin.
My team, Hershey Aquatic Club, was one of the best in the Mid-Atlantic region and produced top-tier talent year after year. The club team fed right into the high school team, so everyone who grew up swimming for HAC also swam for Hershey High School. Needless to say that my teammates and I had the closest of bonds; one doesn’t experience years of school sandwiched between 6am weightlifting sessions and afternoon swim practices without developing friendships that border on a cult. It all paid off, though; our team won the State Championship my freshman, junior and senior years, and we set multiple state records in relays and individual events.
I was recruited to swim in college as a sprint freestyler and committed to Princeton University in New Jersey. My best events had always toggled between the 50 and 100 free, and as college championship format demands a 3rd event, I begrudgingly added the 200 free to my repertoire my freshman year (“It’s a distance event, it’s literally 4 times as long as the 50!!”). I was elected team captain for my junior and senior seasons which kept me extra busy. When I wasn’t in the pool, I was studying gender psychology and playing viola in a campus orchestra called Sinfonia.
My years as a college athlete were quite unusual and turbulent. My team was the focus of a national news story during my junior year when the men’s swimming & diving team was suspended for creating offensive content that targeted the women’s team, and there was major coaching turnover when our head coach of 33 years retired at the end of the 2016-17 season.
My class went through a lot in terms of team culture ruptures, which undeniably affected our ability to train and perform. By our senior season, we’d given up any hope of winning a title at Ivies 2018 (the league championship) and were simply grateful to have made it to the final meet of our collegiate careers. This attitude was the context for the most memorable swim of my career: The 400 free relay.
For the entire season, our team’s time in the event had consistently ranked 4th in the league, with the top teams – Harvard, Yale and Brown – 3 seconds ahead and well out of reach. At Ivies, we were predictably seeded 4th. While my teammates and I were in the ready room for the relay (the final event on the final day of a 4-day meet), we joked about being happy to just be done with the meet. We truly had no hopes of jumping up in the ranks, let alone a top 2 finish. So it came as an unnerving surprise when I was standing on the block ready to dive in for the final leg and saw that my teammate was swimming towards the wall just a hair ahead of the field, and that I was about to swim against two other women whose best times were at least a second faster than me in the 100 free.
There’s a reason I was going last on the relay – my coaches figured out early on that I thrive under the pressure of the anchor, and this time was no different: I had the fastest split of my life and touched first by .06. My teammates had all split some of their fastest times, too, completely blowing away our seed time and shocking the crowd. Given the hardships we’d experienced in the years prior, winning this event quite literally against all odds was, for us, even more legendary than the famous 2008 USA vs. France relay.
I took some much needed time off of swimming after college, at which point I moved out to Portland. My first job out of college was coaching the Tigard Tualatin Swim Club age groupers, and I took on the role of Head Age Group Coach for a year and a half. I eventually pivoted into the digital marketing industry, and after 2 years as an independent contractor, I launched my own business in January 2022 to offer digital business development services to women-owned businesses. I am especially passionate about helping women create independent, powerful economic footholds through business ventures of their own volition, motivated in large part by my experience in college.
I found my way back to the pool (and specifically to the Multnomah Athletic Club) in November of 2021 by way of fellow Masters swimmer Scot Sullivan, who mentioned that the MAC was looking for some new coaches as they reopened their program. I applied and started coaching the Tuesday/Thursday lunchtime and Saturday morning sessions, and began swimming with the Monday/Wednesday evening groups.
Being a part of the MAC community has completely changed my life in Portland. I’ve made some really great friends there and I love being amongst people who nerd out about swimming as much as I do. Plus, I’ve had the chance to be a part of some national records with our women’s relays which is something I’d never thought I’d say!
I love that coaching gets to be a part of my schedule. It’s quite meaningful to be involved with the sport out of the water just as much as I’m in it – when I watch and analyze from a distance, I often learn new things about the way we move through the water, things I’ve never known even from being in the water for the better part of 18 years. On more than one happy occasion, I’ve found myself realizing that swimming is truly a form of art, and that each stroke creates its own fluid shape in the water; I feel incredibly lucky that I have the ability to experience this beautiful sport for my whole life.