For the 17th semester in a row, the UNC Asheville women’s swimming and diving team earned the designation as a Scholar All-American team from the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Association (CSCAA).
The Bulldogs maintained a 3.53 GPA for the fall 2020 semester to become one of over 450 collegiate teams to receive the academic distinction. In order to earn recognition from the CSCAA, swimming and diving teams across the country must earn a team GPA of 3.0 or higher.
UNCA Swimming and Diving Coach Elizabeth Lykins said the honor reinforces the culture of academic excellence the team has embodied since the athletic department introduced the team in 2012.
“Being honored by the CSCAA for so many straight semesters is a significant attestment to how seriously the swimmers and divers consider their academics,” Lykins said. “This is the culture of our program, and every team member understands we are here to earn an education first.”
Students and student-athletes alike faced no shortage of challenges during the fall semester, a period of learning that made remote instruction the norm due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, Lykins said athletes managed to successfully adapt to the new modes of instruction.
“Even with the significant changes in class and in-person instruction, these student-athletes made a commitment to themselves and the team to achieve academic success,” Lykins said.
Team members made sure to take advantage of various educational resources, something sophomore Jessie Frank said made for success in the classroom for herself and her teammates.
“Our team has done a good job of utilizing online office hours with professors, asking teammates for help and using the on-campus resources when needed,” Frank said.
Accountability also helped the team achieve such a high GPA. On many school days, students can find members of the swim and dive team studying together in buildings around campus, placing their phones out of sight to study distraction-free for at least two hours.
“You can usually see at least one group of swimmers and divers together in Highsmith getting work done together — especially around exams or before we have a meet,” said Hannah Bruno, a junior on the team.
For a team that has consistently produced strong academic marks, adapting to new modes of learning and helping teammates stay on track with their schoolwork didn’t come as something new. Rather, Lykins said, she expects her athletes to put their academic responsibilities at the top of their priority lists.
“On our team, academic success is celebrated,” Lykins said. “High standards are the expectation, not the exception.”
The swimming and diving team will look to achieve similar success out of the pool and perhaps earn yet another Scholar All-American honor during the spring semester. Bruno said the team can continue to achieve high academic success by putting forth the same effort in class as everyone does on the pool deck.
“If we can bring the motivation that we take to the pool into the classroom, we are in great shape to keep our academic streak of success for semesters to come,” Bruno said.