• Junior math and education major Sarah Ayers stands with the trophy she won at the NCAA Championships. (Photo by Shelley Do...
    Junior math and education major Sarah Ayers stands with the trophy she won at the NCAA Championships. (Photo by Shelley Dormont)
  • Sarah Ayers (Photo by Shelley Dormont)
    Sarah Ayers (Photo by Shelley Dormont)

Junior Sarah Ayers has been in the pool since she was four years old. Now she can boast that she is the first all-American swimmer from Southwestern University.

After winning the 100-yard backstroke and placing second in the 100-yard butterfly at the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Swimming and Diving Championships, Ayers automatically qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships.

At the NCAA Championships, Ayers swam the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke, where she placed fifth in the preliminary round with a time of 56.42 seconds and placed seventh in the finals with a time of 56.51 seconds.

“Sarah’s performance was just outstanding, it was one of those things that showed her commitment and will be a great example to many of our other swimmers and for any future Southwestern swimmers,” said former head swim coach Dan Carrington, who resigned at the end of the season.

When asked about her reaction to qualifying for the NCAA Division III Championships, Ayers said, “I was just thrilled to go at all. My goal was to make it to nationals, so I knew that whatever happened would just be the icing on the cake.”

This season Ayers had two-a-day practices three times a week, with morning practices six days a week. “Consistent determination is the biggest challenge,” she said. “We practice longer than most sports; our season starts in September and, for me, has continued through the end of March.”

Throughout the process of training for the nationals, Ayers said she looked to her team and coaches for support. “You think that swimming is an individual sport, because you place individually, but it is really not,” she said. “And I think I realized that more when I was at nationals than I have at any other time. Without having my team there to support me and without anyone else to cheer me on, I realized how important having a team is for motivation.”

As a math and education double major, Ayers keeps busy in and out of the pool, but says, “I feel I have been given a talent by God, and every time I get in the pool, I swim to glorify Him.”

Looking forward to next season, Ayers plans on advancing even more, “A lot of different things go into improving, but definitely coaches and the team are the biggest part of that. I improve a lot more when I am enjoying swimming and having a good time with the team.”

 - Rosalie Bonner