During the college swim season, a typical day for Auburn University junior and NCAA 100-yard butterfly champion Olivia Scott begins with one hour of weightlifting at 6 a.m. That’s followed by 30 minutes of swimming. After classes, there’s one hour of dry-land training at 2:30 p.m., followed immediately by two hours of practice in the pool.
“That’s Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” Scott points out. “Tuesday and Thursday are recovery days. We only swim for two hours on those days.”
Only. And, oh, by the way, swim season at the college level lasts seven months.
Why is the Rosary graduate from Aurora willing to put in those kind of hours?
“I don’t know a life without swimming,” she responds. “It’s helped me become a better person. It’s helped me become more responsible.”
Scott began competitive swimming at age 7. She says she was good at the backstroke and breaststroke as a young swimmer, but the butterfly became her focus when she arrived at Rosary.
Scott helped Bill Schalz and the Royals win four straight state championships from 2006 to 2009. She won the 100-yard butterfly all three years she competed in the event at the state championships, lowering her winning time from 55.43 as a freshman to a state record 53.09 seconds her senior year.
She also excelled at other individual events and relays, and her swimming prowess drew the attention of top collegiate programs. Wisconsin and Tennessee were among the schools offering scholarships, but Auburn had a secret weapon.
“I heard about Auburn a lot from Melissa Marik,” Scott said.
Like Scott, Marik was a member of the Academy Bullets Swim Club coached by Schalz. After a successful prep career at Neuqua Valley that concluded in 2005, Marik chose to swim at Auburn. Her stories of the Alabama school helped convince Scott to make a visit.
Scott says the warmer Southern weather was one of the reasons she chose Auburn.
“The campus is beautiful,” she said. “I really connected with the team here. It was just a really easy decision after I came on the trip. … I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
The decision has worked out well for Scott and the Tigers. Her freshman year, she earned three All-America honors, swimming in two relays and three individual events at the 2011 NCAA championships. She finished sixth in the 100 fly finals with a clocking of 52.29 seconds.
There was no “sophomore slump” for Scott, as she finished second in the 100 butterfly at the NCAA championships in 51.61 and garnered four more All-America awards.
Last week in Indianapolis, Scott claimed her first NCAA championship, winning the 100 fly in 51.64.
“It was amazing,” she says. “I wasn’t necessarily expecting to win just because everyone’s times were so close going into the finals.”
Scott was only in fourth place after the first 50 yards, but she turned in the fastest split in the final 50 yards to edge Rachel Bootsma of Cal by four-hundredths of a second.
“I had to double-check the scoreboard,” Scott says. “I wasn’t sure if it was my name or not up there.”
In winning the race, Scott shaved nearly a third of a second off her prelim time. She says she’s not sure how that happened, suggesting perhaps she was more mentally focused during the finals.
“I just wanted to win so badly,” she says.
Scott is taking a well-deserved break from training this week, but she’ll be hard at it again starting next week as she prepares for this summer’s U.S. National Championships, which will also be held in Indianapolis. She hopes to make the U.S. team that will compete in the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, later this summer.
Scott placed 10th in the U.S. Olympic Trials last year in the 100 butterfly and she’ll be searching for ways to shave a few more precious tenths of seconds off her time.
Other than being a world-class athlete, Scott is not that different from her fellow college students. When she has free time, she says she likes to hang out with friends and lay out in the sun.
By the pool, of course.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest local college athletes to be featured in a future column, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.