When I Found Out What Swimming Really Meant to Me

Photo Courtesy: Michael-David Morales

By Nicole Johnson, Swimming World College Intern

When it came time to commit to a college around this time last year, I was one of those people who didn’t have a definite answer. People would ask me where I was going to go to school and if I was going to swim in college and I would have to just smile and say “I’m not actually sure yet.” I knew where I wanted to go, and I knew that I wanted to swim; I just wasn’t able to afford it.

Azusa Pacific University had been my dream school because it had everything I wanted in a school—the right size, my major, and most of all, they had swimming. Ever since I was little, I dreamed about swimming in college. I was never the kid who told themselves and the people around them that they were going to go to the Olympics one day. My goal had always been college swimming.


Photo Courtesy: Michael-David Morales

Since Azusa Pacific was out of my family’s price range, I started to consider other schools that were more affordable, but somehow I wasn’t able to put my full heart into it. At one point I even considered going out of state for school— something I never dreamed of doing. There was one week until signing day and I still wasn’t able to commit to a school that I could afford. My parents were so amazingly dedicated to making sure I was able to go to a school where I felt like I belonged. They tried everything possible to make my dream a reality.

Then something happened that changed my perspective. While talking with my mom about other possible options for school the next year, like going to a community college and not swimming, I sighed deeply and said, “Okay Mom, I guess I’ll give up swimming.” Anyone who knows me would have been just as stunned as my mom when I said those words. I had been working for over 10 years to be able to swim in college, and I couldn’t believe that I would possibly have to throw it all away.

What I didn’t know was that later that week, something else would change my life. My parents received a letter in the mail from Azusa Pacific University letting them know that they had gotten our financial appeal and that they were going to make it possible for me to attend. I can still remember hearing those words and a tear rolling down my face. I knew in my heart that swimming was way too important in my life for me to give it up, and my view on swimming really changed that day.

I never knew how much I loved swimming until I had to really consider giving it up and being able to go through college without it. Going to college and not being able to swim would have totally crushed me inside, and not having a team to rely on would have been really hard considering college is one of the scariest times in someone’s life. Now that I’m finishing my first collegiate season, I understand how special swimming is in my life and how you don’t really know how good something is until it’s almost gone.

As cheesy as it sounds, I would love to encourage every young swimmer out there to continue to pursue their dream of swimming. Swimming is an incredible sport, and being able to swim in college has been the best experience of my swimming career. You may come across some obstacles, but there is always hope out there.


  1. Ron Contreraz

    Awesome story! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Charity Adams-McCafferty

    Very inspiring story. We are checking out that school as well as Biola.