AU’s swimmers and divers rank among the top in the country for their academics and are receiving recognition in the Patriot League for their achievements.
“‘If you fly with the owls at night, you can’t soar with the eagles at dawn,’” said Meghan Thiel, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, quoting AU swimming and diving head coach Mark Davin.
Thiel and others on the team, as Davin’s quote implies, attribute academic success in part to the superior time management skills necessary to handle their rigorous practice schedule.
The team practices three mornings a week and every afternoon except Sunday. That amounts to 20 hours a week, which Davin said is the NCAA limit.
“Time management is a big buzz word,” Thiel said. “There’s no down time. Swimming keeps your mind and body going.”
Last season, Thiel earned the Patriot League Women’s Swimming and Diving Scholar Athlete of the Year Award. Last year, the men’s award also went to an AU student, Val Fomenko, a 2006 Kogod School of Business graduate who holds the school’s record in the 100-meter backstroke, according to an April 2006 press release.
Davin called the achievement a “combination award.”
“You have to be really good as an athlete and have a really good GPA, is what it amounts to,” he said.
In addition to having both the male and female awards, the AU swimming and diving team also had 19 students named to the Patriot League Honor Roll. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.2 for the season to be on the honor roll.
AU swimming and diving has also been on the list of teams with the top 25 average GPAs in the country each of his 11 years as head coach, Davin said.
Shannon Westfall, a senior in Kogod and CAS and one of only 10 AU athletes to make a 4.0 GPA last season, said a rigorous schedule helps with time management.
“When I’m swimming I know I have a limited amount of time to do things, so I actually do them,” she said. “In the off season I feel like I have so much free time that I end up putting things off.”
Westfall said Davin’s support also helped the team excel in academics.
“He’s always making sure we’re on top of our studies,” she said. “He also lets us know where we stand in the rankings so we continue to strive to be a team that’s recognized for our academics.”
At the end of the season, everyone on the team who made a 3.0 or higher is invited to a dinner, Davin said.
“It’s not a big deal; I say a word about how smart we are, we say a cheer for the alumni, we talk and we eat, but people are excited to come,” Davin said.
Last year’s team captain, Michelle Risinger, a senior in CAS and the School of International Service, said the swimming and diving team has “a fair number of men and women in the Honors program,” which provides added incentive for some swimmers and divers to keep up their GPAs.
Davin attributes his team’s academic success to the nature of AU students.
“People come here to take advantage of internships, the city, the faculty, the academics and the enthusiasm of others,” he said. “I think most people here are excited about what they’re doing academically.”
Students on the swimming and diving team also have to keep up with standards mandated by the NCAA. Athletes are required to take eight hours of study hall their first semester of freshman year. If students maintain a 3.0 or higher after that, they are exempt from mandatory study hall. NCAA rules also bar athletes from participating in sports if their GPA falls below a 2.0.