April 21, 2017
Every year each Big Ten institution awards a male and female student-athlete with a Medal of Honor. First awarded in 1915, the conference’s most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. This week each of Ohio State’s ten Big Ten Medal of Honor finalists will be sharing their experiences as Buckeyes and what led them to become the outstanding student-athletes they are today.
A few short weeks ago, I was able to stand among my coaches and teammates as we claimed the 30th National Championship for Ohio State synchronized swimming. Knowing that this was bigger than all of us, and that we were contributing to a tradition of excellence, was a humbling experience. We were able to accomplish this as a team, and it took every single one of us to be able to earn enough points to put us ahead.
This was our team’s second team title in my four years here, and it felt amazing knowing that we were able to pull together with all of our different strengths to claim the title once again. In addition, this year my duet partner, Emma Baranski, and I claimed the first duet national title for Ohio State since 2010. This was our first duet together, and I think we were really able to build a strong connection during our swims. We pushed each other during every practice to improve on our weaknesses and make each other the best we can be.
I cannot think of any better way to end my collegiate synchronized swimming career – surrounded by the people I love and care about at our home pool. Unfortunately this part of my career has come to a close, but I would not have wanted it to end any differently. Now I will be heading to the World Championships over the summer with the Senior National Team, including my teammate and co-captain Emma Baranski, and teammate Monica Velazquez-Stiak.
If someone would have told me as a six-year-old just beginning synchro that this is where I would end up in 15 years, I would not have believed them. I began swimming in local Los Angeles programs, where I developed my love for synchro. My mom then pushed me to join a different club in Riverside, two hours away from home, where I needed to decide if I would rather spend time with family and friends, or dedicate my day to synchro. I chose the tougher path. I left my house at 6 am to go to school, left school 15 minutes early every day to get to practice on time, and got home around 10 pm. While it was extremely difficult eating my meals and doing my homework in the car, my family gave me the confidence I needed to pursue this time-consuming endeavor, and my coaches at Riverside pushed me to be the swimmer I am today.
When my club years came to an end, I knew I wanted to swim collegiately. After visiting several schools, I decided that Ohio State was the best fit for me, both athletically and academically. Finding a school where I could pursue Russian and Communication degrees while swimming for one of the top synchro teams was a win-win situation, and choosing to come Ohio State was the best decision of my life.
I am forever grateful to everyone who has helped me get to this point in my life. My family for always believing in me, my first coaches in Los Angeles that saw potential in me, my coaches in Riverside that helped me get recruited at Ohio State, the entire athletic department for giving me the tools to succeed in every aspect of life, my teammates for always building my spirits, and my coaches Holly and Suzanna for making me a Buckeye, – everyone has made my time as an athlete something that I can look back on and be proud of. I will always carry my Buckeye pride with me, even after my time at Ohio State comes to a close. Go Bucks!