This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2017 issue. Subscribe today!
Born: July 15, 1994
Hometown: Westampton, N.J.
• Rio 2016 Games: Gold (4x100m medley relay);
9th (100m fly)
Other Career Titles:
• 2016 NCAA Champion: 100-yard fly, 200-yard fly
• 2015 NCAA Champion: 100-yard fly, 200-yard fly
• 2015 Pan American Games: 100m fly, 4x100m medley relay
• 2015 U.S. National Champion: 100m fly
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” – Luke 12:31
Being the oldest child means you shoulder a lot of responsibility, but it’s also great to see your siblings follow in your footsteps. In my family, all five of my siblings are now swimmers like me. And to think we came from parents who were never competitive swimmers!
Growing up in Westampton, New Jersey, I remember watching a swim meet when I was young, assuming I would love participating. When my parents actually signed me up, however, the early morning practices and freezing cold water made me reconsider. But, as I kept going, I started to make friends and, turns out, I was actually pretty good.
I still remember hearing other parents make comments about one day making it to the Olympics. While that became my dream as I kept improving and winning, I had no idea the work and dedication it’d take to make it a reality. Before I knew it, I was on some elite swimming club teams, and my sport suddenly had become the top priority in my life. Nothing—not even youth group or church on Sundays—would come before swim meets and practices.
In 2010, the summer after my sophomore year in high school, my pastor reached out to me about going on a missions trip to Poland. I had accepted Jesus into my heart when I was young, I had always gone to church, I was helping lead FCA in high school, but it was his invitation that made me do a heart check and realize swimming had become an idol.
I finally recognized Christ needed to be the center of my life, and nothing should get in the way of Him. So I decided to skip junior nationals that summer and head to Poland instead. I learned a lot from that experience and grew in ways I’m still thankful for to this day.
With rearranged priorities, it soon became time to pick a college. I knew I wanted to branch out away from home, but more importantly I wanted to know where the Lord wanted me—where I could find a Christian community to walk with and hold each other accountable.
Louisville had all of it. During my visit, I met FCA’s Chris Morgan, who serves on the Louisville campus. I also met girls involved in Bible studies and FCA. I just knew Louisville was the place for me, and within the first couple weeks there I found a great church and developed an awesome sense of community with some teammates and within FCA.
My swimming career at Louisville flew by, and I was fortunate enough to win four NCAA individual championships and two gold medals at the 2015 Pan American Games. I was oh-so-close to realizing my childhood dream of competing in the Olympics, but first came the U.S. Olympic Trials. That meet was so difficult and so emotionally taxing. My whole motto for that meet was, “It is well with my soul.” I kept reciting it over and over. No matter what happened, my soul would be spending eternity in Heaven; the results of each race had zero effect on that. There is so much freedom in knowing that, and that freedom helped me qualify in my marquee event, the 100-meter butterfly.
My childhood dream was a reality. I was heading to Rio.
While my individual results in Rio weren’t what I was hoping for or expecting, I enjoyed every minute. (It didn’t hurt being a part of the gold medal 4x100-meter medley relay team.)
It brings tears to my eyes when we sing, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,” at church because that song was running through my head in Rio. There were highs and lows, but I loved representing Team USA.
Now, after graduating from college, it still seems surreal to say my “job” is to swim. I’m practicing full-time and competing around the globe, with the ultimate goal on the distant horizon of making it back to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
It’s great to share about that turning point of temporarily giving up swimming to make Christ the center of my life, how He has used that for His glory while giving the sport back to me as a way to glorify Him. No matter my performance, my attitude will always be to point all the praise to the One who gave me the ability to compete.
Photos courtesy of Louisville Sports Information