Olympic Hopeful Applies Lessons From Pool in Classroom
When Whitney Myers was deciding if she wanted to spend her college career swimming for The University of Arizona, it wasn't the great weather, the academic opportunities or the strong athletic reputation that enticed her most. It was the dance program.
"It was the dance department that was the make-or-break thing that got me out to Tucson," says Myers, the 2007 NCAA Woman of the Year.
Myers has danced almost as long as she has been a swimmer, and competed in jazz, tap, tumbling and ballet for 12 years.
Arizona head swim coach Frank Busch, knowing about her other passion, arranged for Myers to observe a dance class during a recruiting trip. She immediately fell in love with the University.
"I walked in and I said, 'Oh, I'm coming here. This is why I'm coming here,'" Myers says about that first dance class, her eyes lighting up.
Now, four years and 14 UA swimming records later, the senior has exhausted her eligibility at Arizona and is preparing to focus on training for the 2008 Olympic games. While she doesn't compete with the UA team anymore, she trains with them during the week.
Myers describes her training schedule while sitting in her living room, just feet away from dozens of swimming trophies. Her blonde hair, usually confined to a swim cap, hangs lose and wavy at her shoulders. Her long-sleeved T-shirt bears the name of her sponsor â Nike. Describing her fitness routine takes a solid minute but Myers' wide smile never falters.
"Monday, Wednesday, Friday we swim in the morning from 6 to 8," Myers says. "Even when it's 30 degrees outside â¦ we're still outside swimming. And every afternoon we swim from 2 to 4:30."
She also hits the weight room for an hour and a half twice a week and trains from 8 a.m. until noon on Saturdays.
While the swimming schedule is rigorous, it's only part of what keeps Myers busy from day to day.
A science education major, Myers has spent this semester student teaching at Tucson High Magnet School. She teaches biology three days a week and says she hopes that her students are learning about more than just science.
Myers takes lessons she's learned in the pool into the classroom, giving her students lessons they can use in real life. She applies the mantra of her coach, Frank Busch, to her goals as a teacher.
"His philosophy on swimming is 'If I can get you to grow as a person, I can get you to grow as an athlete,'" she says of Busch, adding that since she's been student teaching she can see how it applies to the classroom.
"If you can get the student to grow up and take responsibility for their actions, then eventually they'll be at class on time and they'll do their homework and they'll be prepared for the test," Myers says.
During her last season, Myers won the 2006 Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year award and was the 2007 NCAA champion in the 200 individual medley.
Myers served as co-vice chairwoman of the Pac-10's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, served as co-president of the UA Student-Athlete Advisory Board and was elected team captain at the UA as a sophomore, a position that she held for three years.
"I just really love being involved in everything," she says. "Interacting with people gives me happiness, so when I am just sitting around all day it's like time wasted."
Next semester will be a little different for Myers as she'll take time away from school to focus her energy on getting ready for the 2008 Olympics.
"Although I'm one of those busy-bodies â I love to always have stuff planned out and really be active â I think sometimes it detracts from being rested and eating properly," she said of focusing on training for the Olympic trials. "That's why I'm taking next semester off. Hopefully it will pay off."
Myers will head to Omaha, Neb., in July for the Olympic trials.
While Myers will spend the next several months in the pool and the weight room, she's making time for the thing that drew her to the UA in the first place.
"Even though I won't be taking regular classes next semester, I'm going to take a dance class," she says with a smile.
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