For many college freshmen, the idea of class at eight or nine
o’clock in the morning isn’t simply daunting —
it’s bloodcurdling. After high school, it’s difficult
for many to fathom waking up before lunch has come and gone.
But the freshmen of the Michigan women’s swimming team
consider eight or nine in the morning to be a break — these
Wolverines are used to morning practices from six to eight. Not
only do the freshmen deal with practices before the sun has risen
and the competitive academic schedule of a Big Ten school, they are
also thrown early into a competitive NCAA field, with some
activities scheduled during the week and over breaks.
Freshmen Susan Gilliam, a distance swimmer, and Kaitlyn Brady, a
freestyle and backstroke specialist, have had early success in
their Michigan swimming careers and adjusting to the lifestyle of a
varsity athlete. Gilliam paces the squad with eight individual
titles this season, recently placing first at the Nike Cup in the
500-yard freestyle with an NCAA consideration time of 4:48.51 to
lead the Wolverines to a second-place finish.
Brady follows her teammate closely with six individual
first-place finishes, including a 200-yard backstroke win on Nov. 7
against Michigan State and Florida State at home.
The veterans on the team have helped Gilliam and Brady adjust so
well by welcoming the freshmen with bonding activities and
“We did a lot of things at the beginning of the year to
get to know each other — you know, to learn who you are,
where you’re from,” Brady said.
Not only do the two freshmen look to the upperclassmen to
provide an example to follow, but they also, according to Brady,
find it very helpful to “look to the upperclassmen for
encouragement; after all, they’ve been here a long time and
have lots of experience.”
The upperclassmen provide rides to and from Canham Natatorium,
joke around with the freshmen and become what Gilliam calls
“a lot of fun and a built-in group of friends.”
While these two freshmen sacrifice some of their morning and
free time to participate on the swimming team, both believe that
being on the squad has contributed positively to their college
“Being on the team is one of the best things I
could’ve done coming here,” Gilliam said.