66 Final Thanks For 66 Final Lengths

Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

By Cathleen Pruden, Swimming World College Intern

When I was thinking about swimming my last ever collegiate race, the mile, one of my former club coaches reminded me that I’d have 16 years of training backing that swim and motivating me. While I’ll have well over 1,650 wonderful swimming memories filling my head, more importantly I’ll have 66 lengths to consider all the people who got me here.

Your list may not yet be fully formed, and it may not look quite like mine, but for my 66 final lengths here are 66 people I need to thank, because they shape a swimming career:

  1. Parents. For the early mornings, the expensive suits, the chocolate milk waiting after practice and dozens of other reasons I owe it all to you.
  2. My sister who gave me a reason to get up some mornings, goals to reach, and somebody else to blame for a wet towel left on the ground, instead of in the dryer.
  3. My little brothers who spent their childhoods in the car making trips to and from the pool.
  4. Every person who has ever made me feel like I’m not good enough. You’ve made me better.
  5. The swim lesson instructor who forced me to jump off the diving board.
  6. My first summer league coach who made the sport so fun.
  7. My own summer league swimmers for reminding me what this sport is about.


    Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

  8. The coach who told me he’d never give me an impossible set. It might be difficult, but he believed I could do anything he gave me. I carried that same belief and confidence with me to so many other practices, long after he coached me.
  9. Every competitor. Ever.
  10. Age group teammates.
  11. Every carpool parent. For the time, the snacks, and relinquishing control of the radio.
  12. The Carpool Family. Some nights we vented about practice and people for 30 minutes straight. Some nights we did homework, and other nights we laughed so hard we got a second ab workout.
  13. Officials.
  14. Meet refs.
  15. Meet management.
  16. Travel trip chaperones.
  17. Hospitality (Thanks for keeping our coaches fueled.)
  18. Every random parent who ever timed my distance races because my mom was stuck officiating.
  19. The announcers who give a meet life. I’ll never forget that voice at YMCA Nationals booming, “Good morning, Fort Lauderdale.” 


    Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

  20. Lifeguards. I’ve seen you fall asleep on the stand, but when you actually do blow your whistle at the thunder, I’m pleased.
  21. Natalie Coughlin. My first swimming idol.
  22. Elizabeth Beisel. My later idol, the swimmer I’ve always wished I could become.
  23. Ryan Lochte.
  24. Michael Phelps. For showing us that people make mistakes, but people learn from them.
  25. Teachers.
  26. The neighbors who know it’s called a “meet” and not a “game.”
  27. Hairdressers who eventually accepted that chlorine is an unavoidable component of my hair.
  28. SwimSpray for making swimmers’ hair more tolerable.


    Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

  29. Whoever invented underwater video cameras.
  30. Whoever invented tempo trainers (I’ve learned to love you.).
  31. Whoever invented tech suit Comfort Straps.
  32. Everyone who has donated to a Swim-A-Thon.
  33. My counters.
  34. My land friends who tell me I’m amazing even when I add 10 seconds in a 200.
  35. My classmates who finally stopped complaining about the smell of chlorine.
  36. The school friends who were still my friends even after it became clear I would not be attending Friday night sleepovers, because I had practice Saturday morning.
  37. My high school coach who was flexible with the club swimming schedule.
  38. Wonderful friends I made on other club teams.
  39. The team that accepted visitors when I traveled for Thanksgiving.
  40. The college kids who came home to train on breaks. You gave me a glimpse of how much more was out there.


    Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

  41. My college coach, for taking me from a technical mess to less of a technical mess, and from zero self confidence to an “I can do anything” outlook on life.
  42. The assistant coach, the underrated superstar, the one who brings a fresh smile to everything.
  43. Coaches’ families.
  44. My college teammates who share a passion for balancing student and athlete.
  45. Other athletes for the common bond and the cross team friendships.
  46. Aunts and uncles for coming to cheer at meets when I was far from home.
  47. My college conference.
  48. The random girls in the locker room who recognize the look of, “Help me with this tech suit strap!”
  49. The sports psychologist.
  50. The athletic trainers. You’ve put endless time and effort into helping me feel better, both mentally and physically.
  51. Every team captain who came before me. For guiding me. For challenging me. For setting a tone for our team. For making this a doable job.
  52. My fellow captains for keeping me sane.


    Photo Courtesy: Bob Davis

  53. The teammates who make incredible psych up signs.
  54. Divers. You’ve waited through long swimming sessions, filmed us, and continued your support even when the swimmers’ enthusiasm was waning.
  55. The athletics director for all of your behind the scenes work and for your loud presence at any meet you attend.
  56. The associate athletic director for believing in me, pushing me, and making athletics feel so applicable and important to life.
  57. The sports information director for highlighting our accomplishments.
  58. Student event staff workers.
  59. The bus driver.
  60. Swimming World for the opportunity to further explore and express why I love this sport.
  61. Sports journalists for the inspirational stories.
  62. The stats people. I wouldn’t waste so much time if you didn’t give me so many numbers and event rank lists to stalk.
  63. Every artist who has ever produced a song I jammed to behind the blocks.
  64. Every artist who has ever graced the “Calm Down. You’re Fine.” playlist. (Looking at you Taylor Swift.)
  65. The photographers. You’ve captured the moments that make sure these are times I’ll never forget.
  66. The masters swimmers whom I will inevitably join. Thanks for making sure swimming doesn’t need to end right now.

Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden


  1. Evan Swenson

    Olivia Ontjes is that you??

    • Olivia Ontjes

      Hah yeah- my friend Cathleen wrote the article

  2. Jessica Nichol

    MiamiRedhawks Women’sSwimming