NCAA Champion Olivia Smoliga Reflects On Emotional Week in Minneapolis

Guest editorial by Olivia Smoliga

ATHENS, Georgia, March 26. THIS was an awesome experience. It was really cool. I visited a lot of schools when I was making my choice, and this reaffirms to me that this was the best decision I ever made. I knew going in that Georgia had won a bunch of national championships and I knew that I wanted to be a part of that. I’m glad I was able to do so my first year here.

It was a long season. Coming in and not having trained long course or done weights, it was tough to adjust. It took about a month or a month and a half. I’m just glad everything turned out the way it did by the end of the season.

The SEC meet was so important for us. We had a good dual meet season, but going head to head with everybody from the SEC — which is such an amazing conference — at the same time, we knew we had to reach another level. Winning the SEC meet gave us the momentum we needed to head into the NCAAs.

I’m a gamer. I love to compete and I love to race. But at the NCAAs, I definitely had butterflies and was nervous as heck. Luckily, I had teammates and coaches relaxing me and telling me to race the way I always have and to have fun. That was just what I needed. It calmed my nerves. It was so exciting to be behind those blocks and see all of them and the entire UGA section cheering for you.

The NCAA meet was different from the SEC meet. They were both extremely intense, but I think I swam 10 times in five days at the SECs and 10 times in two days at the NCAAs. It was really important to make sure we were warming down properly and rehydrating and refueling. You had to do all the right things to make sure things went smoothly.

Going into the third day, we knew we were ahead on points, but we never said it was signed, sealed and delivered. We weren’t going to go in cocky at all. We all wanted to make sure every race was done perfectly, just as if it were the first day. It was good when the meet was over and we knew we had done a good job.

Winning the national championship is the most amazing feeling. We knew what our jobs were and we did them. It was such an honor to be with these girls and watch everyone do what she was capable of. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Bulldog.

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Author: Jeff Commings

Jeff Commings is the host of several shows on SwimmingWorld.TV, including "The Morning Swim Show," which features interviews with people making headlines in aquatic sports. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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