|by Jim Rusnak '95, Editor of Splash Magazine • March 28, 2005|
Editor's Note: Wabash College alum Jim Rusnak '95 is now the editor of USA Swimming's Splash Magazine. Rusnak worked as a sports writer for the Times of Northwest Indiana before joining USA swimming. He was a publications coordinator for the national swimming organization before becoming the magazine editor. He was an English and German major at Wabash and a member of the Little Giant swim team.
In putting together this issue of Splash, I couldn’t help but think what a mistake it would have been if I had chosen not to swim in college.
Initially, swimming wasn’t a priority. I picked my school based on its solid academic reputation and the amount of money it had given me in academic scholarships and grants.
Luckily, some of the guys on the team and a very supportive coach convinced me to give it a try. It turned out that some of the most rewarding experiences I had, and some of the most important lessons I learned in college, didn’t come from the classroom, but from the swimming pool.
That’s not to say academics weren’t a priority. I still worked hard enough in the classroom to maintain my scholarships and graduate with honors. I just think college should be more than trudging from class to class, taking three-hour finals, writing hundreds of papers and taking the occasional pizza break.
A few years back, at the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, coaching legend Peter Daland asked me – in the context of certain swimmers giving up their eligibility for professional contracts – if I would have ever given up my opportunity to swim in college.
I’ve never had millions of dollars riding on my athletic ability, so I can only answer from my personal perspective.
It was a real privilege to belong to that team, and my college experience would have been significantly less fulfilling without it.
Looking back, I can’t help but think of all the great memories I took away from my college swimming career. Some center around team victories, others around personal achievements, and still others around the great friends I made and the good times we had.
While we all come away with different experiences, every college swimmer out there understands and can identify with what I’ve written, even if they can’t express it in their own words. Our teams become our families, and we bleed the school colors a little deeper than the average fan who sits in the stands at football games.
That, to me, is one of the most unique aspects of college swimming.
I know there’s a lot of high school juniors and seniors out there reading this magazine, and I really hope you are giving serious consideration to continuing your swimming careers in college. If not, then I’d say you’re really missing out.
Whether you’re the slowest guy on your club or a national finalist, there’s most certainly a college program out there that’s a perfect fit for you, both athletically and academically. All you have to do is look around and weigh your options.
We know that can be a daunting task at first, but we’ve given you some information in this issue of Splash that should help you get started – everything from the different opportunities available to you, to some tips on how to get noticed by the college of your choice.
While we can’t promise you a big-time scholarship, the glamour of winning the NCAA Division I Championships or even the honor of swimming on a top Division III team, we can just about guarantee that, should you decide to swim in college, it will be the experience of a lifetime.