Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Nicole Zais

Favorite professors? I love Professors Andrew Howard and Sue Standing. They are my advisors for my art and English majors, respectively, but I have also had several classes with them and they both push me to do my best in the classroom.

Swimming at Wheaton: I have had an awesome experience on the swim team. Even though it is a very individual sport, since when you compete it is just you against the clock, the team aspect is very strong and important. Since we train so much with each other and the workouts are always physically and mentally challenging, it is very important to have a great support system of teammates.

NCAA: This year, I decided with my coach JP Gowdy to really focus on earning a spot in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament this year as my goal. This meant I had to take my training to the next level. All summer I ran, swam but added lifting with a personal trainer into the mix. Alex Ponomarenko is a former Ukrainian track and field Olympic coach who trains athletes of all kinds now in West Concord, MA. He has brought my swimming to the next level and even though I had to commute back home and give up my weekends at Wheaton all first semester, I feel that this choice was the right one for me to be able to swim to my best potential. This is my last year swimming competitively and I have given my all and given many things up for NCAAs, and I am so excited to see the final results.

In order to be selected to participate in the NCAA championship meet, a swimmer has to make a certain qualifying time, or cut time. There are two different cut times, an automatic “A” cut time, and a slower provisional “B” cut time. This year, I made the “A” cut in the breaststroke! No female swimmer from Wheaton has ever made an “A” cut. I am not only extremely excited, but I am very honored to represent Wheaton in this way and to make athletic history at the school!

Making the cut: At the last chance meet at NYU, my time of 2.19.35 bumped me up to 5th place, an “A” cut! I was so astonished. I remember looking up at the clock with my mouth hanging open; it was the craziest feeling ever. My mom burst into tears and my dad couldn’t stop laughing and cheering along with my fellow swimmer Elle Van Cott and our assistant coach Zachariah Hicks. The feeling was unreal.

Attending the 2011 NCAA: Two years ago, I qualified under “B” cut. We were all very young and a little unprepared for the intensity of the meet and although we had a lot of fun, I think we were a little too jittery. I am really looking forward to going again especially when I am more mentally, and obviously physically, prepared, and will be able to really compete to my fullest potential.