Saturday February 1st was the last home meet for Cougar Swimming and Diving this season. While the Conference Championship is still approaching, for the Senior Class of 2014, the Quad meet against Rice, Tulane and LSU was nothing if not momentous. This was final race at the University's Campus Recreation Center for the graduating swimmers, after a long journey in UH's water.
The Campus Recreation and Wellness Center... Also Known As "The Rec"
Hey Cougars! Just a few weeks ago on November 2nd, Houston Swimming and Diving took their first victory over SMU since 1986 - this feat is a lot to be proud of! The annual Phil Hansel is coming up in two weeks as well, and we hope to see some more record-breaking results in the water at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
Speaking of the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (also known as "The Rec" and home to Houston's Swimming and Diving team), today I'm going to share the glory of this amazing facility for all of you who don't about it already.
The Campus Recreation and Wellness Center first opened in January of 2013. The decade old facility still appears brand-new however, and is one of the most popular places on campus for students to work-out, hang-out or just have some fun out of the classroom. Just FYI, when I said "hang-out", I was literally referring to the 53 foot climbing wall, where students can go climb up 2500ft2 of rock wall.
Other great features of the facility include the indoor track, three basketball sized gyms, squash courts, outdoor leisure pool and water slide, beach volley ball court and even a full sized fitness zone with more weights than an Olympic lifter would know what to do with.
And most importantly, the Natatorium - the place where the swimming and diving team spends most of their days, and early mornings. Houston's pool has a 70 meter competitive pool, and full set of spring boards and tower platforms. The Natatorium is always full of energy, the large windows allow for wonderful natural lighting, and the cleanliness of the deck makes for the perfect experience.
Here are some pictures for you to see the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center for the comfort of your own home (or laptop/iPhone), and also check out this video about Houston's awesome university and top programs.
Career Highlights: This Summer at our Long Course state meet I participated on 3 relays that broke 3 old state records
Favorite Snack: pretty much anything that's good
Favorite Song: Headlines- Drake ( It is always my Go to song for swimming)
Quote I live By: Belief in the future holds power over the present
Goal for the Year: My goals are high and more personal but basically to swim really fast. I also want our team to be one of the top teams in our conference at the end of the season.
Why I Chose Houston: My recruiting trip I wasn't even here for a full 24 hours But after I left and looked at other schools I always remembered UH. So I guess it just felt right.
Hometown: Austin, TX
Main Event: 500 Freestyle
Favorite Snack: Pickles
Favorite Song: Stolen Car by Patty Griffen
Quote I Live By: "What day is it?" It's today," squeaked Piglet. My favorite day," said Pooh.
Goal for the Year: AAC RING!!
Why I Chose Houston: The team and the atmosphere
Hometown: London, ON, Canada
Main Event: 10meter platform
-2010 & 2012 Jr. World Finalist
-2010 Canadian Jr. National Champion Tower
-2009 & 2013 Canada Games Finalist
-2013 Fina Grand Prix Semi-Finalist
-2012 Olympic Trials Finalist
-2010 to present, Canadian National Team Member
Favorite Snack: Trail mix
Favorite Song: anything country, but I also love pumpin' music too- so this is
where I struggle
Quote I Live By: "Anyone who thinks that sunshine is pure happiness has never
danced in the rain."
Goal for the Year: To qualify for NCAA championships
Hometown: Houston, TX
Main Event: 200 free
Career Highlight: Winter champs 2010
Favorite Snack: Fruit
Favorite Song: Stronger by Kanye west
Quote I Live By: "No race is a waste if you learn something from it"
Goal for the Year: Improve
Why I Chose Houston: Houston was the choice for me, because it's close to home and the program was the right fit for me. :)
Hometown: Alliston, Ontario CA
Main Event: 200 Breast, 200IM, 400IM
Career Highlights: medaling at provincials in 50 breast, and 4x100 medley relay, finishing top 16 yearly at Age Group Nationals
Favorite Snack: crackers and cheese
Favorite Song: A Thousand Years, I Love It
Quote I Live By: Don't let yesterday take up too much of today, Pain is only temporary glory is forever
Goal for the Year: Sr National time, Deans list
Why I Chose Houston: I felt that the program would take me to the next level
How to keep your times low and your GPA high
Houston's Swimming and Diving Team is truly a School of Fish. With 19 of our athletes named to the Commissioner's Honor Roll last year, and with two Commissioner's Academic Medalists, it is evident that these athletes are not just talented in the pool. Both members of the swim team and Honors College, Michelle Detka and Colleen Donovan are two distinguished swimmers who take much pride in their educational and athletic goals.
Michelle Detka, a sophomore and member of the Cougars' school-record setting 200-medley relay that took third at the C-USA Championships, is a butterflyer in the pool and Honors College Students outside of it. With aspirations to one day become a doctor, Detka uses all the energy she doesn't put into swimming into her studying. With big dreams however, Detka knows the value of hard-work and goal setting. Detka says that, "For the last few years, swimming has caused me to set my own goals, for school I have set my own goals, and I have never really given up on those goals."
"When I go to a swim meet and I do poorly in a race that doesn't mean I'm not going to work just as hard at practice, or even harder in practice. I take that [motivation to succeed after defeat] into the classroom. If I do poorly on an exam or if am trying to get a certain grade, I keep trying to work towards that goal and do not just give up."
Evidently, after one year of college swimming under her belt, Detka knows the value of every practice and every exam. She puts an enormous amount of effort into each day, because that's what she believes makes successful students or successful athletes, or in her case, a successful student-athlete.
Detka explains, "Each dual meet we swim builds up to our Conference Meet, that's just like your exams throughout the semester... you don't want to just put off everything and wait until the final to study; you want to build up your entire semester so that you' re prepared for that final, just like you'd be prepared for Conference. After swimming each dual meet you should feel the way that you would race your Conference Meet."
Detka's similar mindset towards athletics and academics has helped her keep her times low, and her GPA high.
However, she admits that it is not only this mindset that has aided in her success. Detka highly values all of the resources that are available to her here at UH. She says, "Angel, Rich, and the tutors at Alumni have been amazing... You want to take advantage of those opportunities because not a lot of students get the opportunities that we get with the unlimited resources and tutors always being there".
Not only does she believe that these people do their job well, but that they go above and beyond to meet their athletes' needs. Detka further explains that "My tutors are always available by e-mail or you can call them and ask any of your questions any time during the week...they are always there for you."
Angel, the swimmers' and divers' academic advisor, is also here to aid in the ladies' successes. Detka says that, "Angel works with everyone to get their schedules in line and she's always open for talking or de-stressing." This is also seen by Rich, the swimmer's new head coach. She says that, "Rich is amazing...He offers practice in the morning if you have an exam on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He works around your schedule just to get everything ready for school, and makes sure that your grades are up as well as your swimming."
Very appreciatively, the sophomore applauded the efforts of Houston's staff in helping her to achieve her goals.
Along side Michelle, Colleen Donovan also has a high focus in and out of the water. Donovan is a senior swimmer for the Cougars and was a member of the Cougars' school-record setting 800-free relay (7:16.67) at the Conference USA Championships. On the academic side, Donovan is a member of the Honors College as well as the Personal Excellence in Selling Program, a prestigious program in the Bauer College of Business.
Donovan, a student in two rigorous programs as well as a rigorous sport, has a distinct competitive nature that has attributed to her successes in these areas. She explains that, "An athlete's competitive nature is something that comes out in every aspect of their day! In school, I definitely push myself to stand out academically amongst my peers." This drive to thrive was also seen at last year's Conference Championships as Donovan set personal best times in all three individual events she competed in.
This competitive nature has not only been revealed through her results, however. Donovan explains, "Swimming has not only instilled the competitiveness to try to outperform on a presentation or test, but the discipline to see challenging lessons through."
With her competitiveness and discipline, Colleen Donovan has a strong foundation to accomplish her goals. However, like Detka, she also greatly acknowledges the support the Houston community provides to her. She explains that, "Balancing a sport and being a full-time student is difficult, but the academic support from Angel and our coach's at Houston is awesome. Angel really stays on us to keep on top of our work with meetings and Proactives. She also has been a student-athlete so she understands the stress and is willing to work through those challenges with us."
In her last year with the Cougars, Donovan is grateful for her new coach and his perspective he has for the graduating seniors. She says that, "Even though Rich is just starting to get into the groove of coach an all girls team, he realizes that the seniors only have one year or so of school left, so he encourages us to think of our futures and to begin networking with people in the fields we want to go into. Having a support system like that behind you, that is thinking about not only your athletic success, but your future as well, is a huge stress reliever!"
With only a month into the Cougar's swimming program, it appears that Head Coach Rich Murphy is already leaving lasting impressions on his swimmers.
Michelle Detka and Colleen Donovan are only two of the Cougar's overachieving student-athletes, but it is safe to say that the coaches and staff have the best interests of all their athletes in mind, in and out of school. They are all helping to keep the swimmers' times low, GPA's high, and futures bright.
The Annual Lady Cougar In-House Rivalry9:00 am on Saturday morning began the first pre-season meet for the Lady Cougar Swimming and Diving Team. The team's annual "Red and White Meet" is an in-house competition amongst the Cougar's swimmers and divers. The Lady Cougars were first divided into two teams and then raced in a friendly (or not-so-friendly) competition, consisting of 11 different events. After the 11 swimming events and two diving events, the in-house rivalry left the white team with the win for the day, with a final score of 119 - 102.
Maya Owens, a sophomore flyer and a member of the winning white team, took second place in the 50 and 400 freestyle events. Owens explains "After today I am really excited for the season and our first dual meet on Friday." With the Cougar's first dual meet next Friday, Owens also notes that, " I need to work on lengthening my strokes before we go up against North Texas." Taylor Derevyanik, also in her second season, won the 150 yard backstroke with a time of 1:35.00. Derevyanik, who also placed second in the 300 yard IM, says that in the upcoming week she will focus on "speeding up her flip turns" to get ready for the Cougar's first Dual Meet of the year.
Other top times of the day included Maggie McCord's 24.77 in the 50 Free, Michelle Detka's 42.64 in the 75 fly, and Laykin Lowry's 3:27.60 in the 300IM. Heather Winn had a triple sweep in the 75, 150 and 400 free, with times of 39.41, 1:26.11 and 4:10.00, respectively. Other honorable mentions go out to two freshman swimmers, Cameron Balkom and Michaela Hamrick, who both took top times in the 150 breaststroke (1:50.91) and 800 free (8:45.77), respectively.
As for the divers, Natasha Burgess was the lone athlete on the boards for the day, taking a double win for team red. Before the start of the day, freshman Taylor Olanski sprained her ankle during the warm-up, and sophomore Danielle Shedd was also recovering from an injury earlier in the week. The divers will not be competing at the dual meet against UNT, so with some time to prepare, the girls will be ready for their first big meet of the season - the Phil Hansel Invitational - taking place at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center this November.
Overall, it was a motivating and exciting day for the Lady Cougars. Even though team white had the most points, they did not pull ahead of red when it came to team spirit. Check out our pictures from the morning to see for yourself!
Take the Road that Leads to Awesome
It is the beginning of two-a-day practices, too many laps and not enough flips, but this is just the beginning of the road for the Cougar Swimming and Diving Team. However, with any new beginning, there is a lot of excitement in the air - or should I say in the pool. Houston's Swimming and Diving Team feels excited and is looking forward to an awesome year in the American Athletic Conference.
But what does an "awesome year" really mean? At the Shasta Blast this year - a gathering of the university's student athletes celebrating the successes of the past year, the welcoming of newcomers and most importantly looking forward to the upcoming season - the motto was "Take the road that leads to Awesome."
And to one of Houston's swimmers, "awesome" looks a little something like this:
Maggie McCord, a sophomore and Tucson, Arizona native saw much success her freshman year. She swam the fastest 50 and 100 free events on the team during the 2012-13 season, with historically fastest times for a Houston freshman swimmer. With such talent, one would think that to her, awesome would mean a best time or a NCAA title. However, it is far from that.
Sophomore Maggie McCord
"Awesome is being really well rounded, especially as a team," said McCord.
Last season the swimmers and divers won the Cougar Cup, a competition between Houston's athletes based on community service, supporting other teams at home games, and the overall team GPA.
Accordingly, McCord explained that, "Last year we developed more as a team, we did more community service including reading to kids in school and volunteering at the Special Olympics". She continued on to say that "Awesome doesn't necessarily have to mean results, awesome can also be as leaders, as members of the community. I think it is more important to be awesome as a person rather than awesome as an athlete."
However, when asked what it does mean to be an awesome athlete, McCord was persistent with her same perspective. "Awesome [as an athlete] is not the best performer on the team, but how you are as a teammate, contributing to the overall success, scoring points, cheering your teammates on and pushing your teammates in practice." However, with such high standards to be a good team member, McCord was proud to note that the swim team has really embraced the motto so far this season.
To carry on the enthusiasm and search for an awesome season is one of the newest members of the Cougar family. Taylor Olanski, a true freshman from London, Ontario is beginning her first season with the Cougars and looking forward to the upcoming year. Even though she is only a freshman, Olanski is coming in with national medals and international experience from her days back in Canada. With much success in her junior career, she is very enthusiastic about jumping into new water here in Houston.
"I am very excited to be able to train with new people who will push me to be successful in NCAA diving, and I am also excited for my new coach - I think we will work very well together," said Olanski.
Similar to McCord's view of the team, Olanski continued on about the atmosphere, noting that, "it's very lively and energetic. We all push each other to be successful in school and in the pool."
Freshman Taylor Olanski
Olanski is not only ready to start the diving season, but she is also feeling the rush of being on a college campus. When asked how she feels about the University of Houston, she explained with a smile, "Everything here is very fun, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."
And if you thought the excitement was only amongst the underclassmen, senior swimmer Heather Winn can assure you that the energy never dies. Winn, going into her fourth year with the Cougars, was the Team MVP last season. At the 2013 Conference USA Championships, she captured the bronze medal in the 1,650 free while setting a new school record.
With many achievements behind her, Winn is looking forward to the final season of her college career, and makes it evident that the goals of these three athletes are much aligned. Winn says that "Success to me would be what we had at the end of last year. All the swimmers and divers coming together and seeing how successful we can be as a team, not just as individuals. That's what I want to happen again this year."
With four coaches in four years, Winn knows the importance of a strong bond amongst her teammates and its contribution to success. She explains, "With a new coach and new swimmers, it's basically just a fresh start, we've been through a lot in the last three years and it will be exciting to see where we can go with our new coach. We have a pretty young team, so having Rich come in will be great to see what he can do and how successful we can be."
With a new coach and new conference, there is much excitement for the new year. It appears that the divers are seeking new heights and that the swimmers are on the right track -- or should I say in the right lane.