The Grind

By: First Year Bri Garcia

After returning back to Sweet Briar from Florida we all realized that training did not end… At all. The grueling two a day practices continued now coupled with crossfit style workouts. As a first year, returning back to Sweet Briar a week before classes started and being pretty much the only people on campus was fun! Having the whole team in one building meant we could bond over team meals and practically spend all day together-oh joy! From setting the fire alarm off when cooking to McDonald sweet tea runs winter training truly brings a team together. Even though it’s hard and pushes you past your limits it’s worth it in the end. Go Team!



Making Connections


By Brooke “Pinkerton” Burnett – class of 2020

There are many things that are ‘sweet’ about Sweet Briar: community, academics, and teamwork, just to name a few. They all seem to pale in comparison to the reach of the “Pink Bubble” for which Sweet Briar is known. On campus, the Pink Bubble is the safety of the Sweet Briar community, the school, where everything is seen through literal rose colored glasses. The ‘real’ world’s Pink Bubble is better known by another more common title: Alumnae. Any Sweet Briar woman knows that when she is with an alumna, the Pink Bubble of home returns and just for a little while ,it’s like being back in front of the Bell Tower or lounging by lower lake. Sweet Briar women carry a little piece of home with them wherever they travel.
As a first year at Sweet Briar, I came in knowing that the alumnae saved the school, that through their hard work and their dedication I could come and experience the Pink Bubble first hand. I knew about the ‘Adopt-a-Vixen’ program, and I knew that the alums had been out there just waiting for us. My interaction with the alumnae spanned quite a long time before I even set foot on Campus.
One cold blustery, winter day, I received a phone call, out of the blue. At first, I missed the call, but I immediately returned it, Starbucks in hand and ready to listen. “Hello?”, I said tentatively, really not sure who was calling. What blossomed was a two-hour conversation with an alumna from D.C.. She told me of her life, her travels, how she ended up teaching in Japan to now running her own company. I was so enthused about my future after that conversation. It was all about being empowered and that was the first time I heard the bubble grow around me.  I think that conversation alone is what set Sweet Briar above all other schools I had applied to. After growing up thinking I was just another number to be processed through an education system, I was finally Amelia Brooke Burnett. Finally, I could see a future where I would be happy. It all came down to something as simple as a phone call. It changed my world.
The world I reside in now is one of pink and green, and everyday I experience the strength of the alumnae. Nowhere else in the world compares to the relationship with the women I get to experience every day here on campus and when I venture beyond the campus.
One such example was the recent trip to Florida with my team. As I embarked on my first training trip with the Sweet Briar Swim team, I was scared of the miles we’d run and the laps we’d swim. But, I knew I was there with my team and all would be well as long as we did it together. And we did, we spent everyday for six days, training twice a day in a long course pool and pulling muscles and building each other up. But, when we weren’t in the pool, we were relaxing, shopping, exploring, and connecting.
We had dinner with one Alumna, Kari, she has the brightest smile in the world, and the biggest heart I think one woman could handle ( Though, I think all the Alums are like fairies of love and happiness )  along with the magnificent and very funny Monika ( who makes a marzipan pie that is to die for)  the younger students ( us ) were regaled with stories of the past and the Pinkertons, known to the current students as Campo. The team made a pseudo-pact that we would bring the old name to light again! It was just amazing learning about the past. When you have the opportunity to interact with ladies like these it just feels like your uncovering a history that isn’t written down; it is some kind of folk-tale passed down from generation to generation and now you’re the keeper. It’s almost magical how important these little details become in shaping your world view. Without a doubt it makes you want to preserve the Bubble and just keep it dear in your heart.
On our ONE afternoon off, the underclass-women went walking around downtown, looking and shopping in every store we considered ‘preppy’. There was one store in particular, Snappy Turtle, that had caught our eye because of the pink and green display in the window. Of course, being the girls that we are, we had to explore. Upon entry, we were immediately met with questions about our school and met two women who were very close with some alumna. One was from MICHIGAN.  The Alumna always always always take care of us. At another Alumna dinner, with Cynthia Ottaway, class of 1957,  we were treated like queens with a lovely dinner. The girls on my team had discussed coming back to Delray Beach for spring break. Upon mentioning our plans, we were immediately invited to have lunch at the Ocean Club with Cynthia. We were thrilled to return to share more time and stories!
Our alumnae do so much for us and we just love them right back. I hope to one day be as gracious and giving as they have been to us!

Have Mercy on Me

By first year swimmer, Mikia Hundley (Class of 2019)

As finals week finally came to an end, I was ecstatic to go home for winter break. I was looking forward to sleeping in later, movie nights with my mom, and having lazy mornings in bed with my dogs. I wanted to go home, but I wasn’t ready. Simultaneously, I was excited to go home, but dreading being away from school.  I wasn’t ready to leave my team. The girls on the team are more than team-mates, more than friends; they are family. I practically spend all day with them. From morning practice, to class, to lunch, back to class, then back to practice, dinner, and studying in the library together to finish the day. Grabbing the rare moment of free time;  it is not uncommon to walk into my room to find two or three of my team-mates lying in bed with my dog watching a movie. Cody Jo, my goofy cocker spaniel and emotional support animal, has become another ‘member’ of the team. I share my life with them and I couldn’t imagine spending a month without them.

When the day finally arrived to leave Sweet Briar and go back to my sunny home of Augusta, Georgia, I packed up my car and headed off with another swimmer, Brianna Garcia. We laughed and sang a little too loudly on the drive to the airport. The airport that Bri flew out of is about half way between my house and campus. She normally road trips with me. I gave her a hug goodbye and watched her walk through the sliding doors. That was it; we were all going our own way for a few weeks. I drove the rest of the way home with my puppy asleep in my lap.

Once home, I got comfortable. Snapchat and FaceTime kept us all up-to-date and feeling like a part of each other’s everyday lives. I began to enjoy sleeping in a bit too much and the thought of waking up early for morning practice everyday made me want to cry a little. The days of Netflix and lounging came to an end on January 5th.

On my first flight to Florida, I worried a lot. I worried about if I had prepared enough over winter break. Worried if I could run the 2.8 miles to the pool every morning and make it there on time for practice. I knew the workouts were going to be intense but I didn’t know how intense. Would training trip be the death of me?  I would find out shortly.

The first team member I was reunited with was Taylor Allen. We planned our flights accordingly so that we would be on the same flight to Ft. Lauderdale. We even took it a step farther by booking seats next to each other. Being with Taylor made me feel like I was at home again, my heart was a little more full, and I felt a little more complete. I couldn’t wait to see the rest of the girls. I also was really looking forward to seeing my coach again. Donna has also become family. She’s like a second mom  to me. She guides not only me, but the rest of the team, through swimming, academics, and even personal problems from time to time. She’s our rock that we can count on. She might try to kill me in the pool but she supports me outside of it.

Training trip started with a lot of loooonggg sets. The first day we ran three miles and swam almost five. It was a lot of exercising!  My body hurt. During the fly intervals, I actually started planning my funeral. Who would get Cody? My favorite pair of pearls? Thoughts like these filled my mind between kicks. The practices were long and hard but we got through it together. Our team bond strengthening with each challenging set.

As I sit in the Atlanta airport writing this blog, I’m sad we are leaving Florida behind. The fears I once had were unfounded. Donna knows us better than we know ourselves. She gives us challenging workouts but she tailors it for each individual, pushing each of us right up to our own specific limit; always encouraging and knowing we can handle the challenge. We are leaving behind the warm sunny days of Florida, but we are returning to Sweet Briar a closer unit than when we left. We are bringing back tans, freckles, and more muscles. Mostly we are bringing back CONFIDENCE! Walking through the snow to practice twice a day is not something any of us are excited about in the coming weeks. However, we are all feeling ready for our conference championship and ready to embrace the remaining challenges the season has to offer.

img_9522-1Training trip was a success. I can honestly say that I am looking forward to the next training trip and sharing it with a whole new group of first year swimmers.


By sophomore, Caroline Thomas

Today was marvelous! It was because of our hard work and Coach’s love that we got to sleep in a little later today before practice. This was a recovery day, after swimming only 1.62 miles, which is equivalent to about 6.48 running miles, we got the afternoon off! We started the fun by traveling to Peanut Island. First year, Brooke and I, were the only ones brave enough to immerse ourselves into the chilly ocean but shortly into our, “fun in the sun”,  it started to rain and thus our beach day ended. Freezing from the wind and drizzle,  we all decided to head back to the hotel. From there, the first-years and I, along with our pal Keifer, from the Hampden-Sydney swim team, decided to take the free trolley into downtown Delray. We did a little shopping and walking. We made it all the way down to the beach and took a couple of cute pictures. The trolley picked us back up and took us to the hotel.  A wonderful home cooked dinner and birthday cupcakes were provided by Claire Zak’s family. An absolutely wonderful  way to celebrate Claire’s birthday! Now it’s time for some Galavant and rest to gear up for the double practice tomorrow!

Count Your Blessings…..

By soon to be 21 year old, junior, co-captain, Claire Zak

Even though this is my third training trip, I began to have anxiety in the days leading up to the start. I found myself wanting to stay with my family longer, cuddling with my puppy, drinking coffee with my sisters in the morning, eating my mom’s awesome cooking, listening to my dad’s corny jokes, and visiting with my grandparents who were staying with us during the holidays. I was nervous about who I was going to room with, I worried whether I had prepared enough for the challenging practices ahead, if I would get a terrible sunburn (because I am the palest Floridian alive), if we were going to have enough food, if I was going to get shin-splints during the 2.6 mile morning runs to the pool, if the hotel coffee would be acceptable enough to sustain my caffeine addiction, and lastly, if I would be able to emotionally support my teammates in my role as co-captain. But as much as I wished I could stay in winter break forever, the day of training trip arrived and I drove down to Delray Beach to meet my team.

Coach encouraged us to live in the moment during this training trip and I realized that she was right. All my worries seem silly now. Yes, my face is a little red but the weather is warm while the most of the country is covered in snow. Yes, I am sore because the practices are brutal, but that just means I am working hard. And I should have never been worried about rooming because all of my teammates are awesome and supportive. Of course we have enough food because our awesome Florida alumnae worked so hard to feed us throughout the week.

Our team got another reminder to count our blessings because of the terrible shooting the other day at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport. One of my former and recently graduated teammates, Lydia, was supposed to fly down to assist Coach during training trip. Unfortunately, she got appendicitis the day before and was not able to make her flight because of her scheduled surgery. If she had made the flight, she would have been arriving in the exact same terminal at the exact same time of the shooting. We all agree that her appendicitis was a blessing in disguise.

I am trying my best to experience the present but I still have some anticipation for the future. Tomorrow is my birthday and it will be the driest 21st birthday in all of 21st-birthday-history but that’s fine. We will have the afternoon off and will be spending it exploring the near-by Peanut Island and snorkeling. And my family will bring dinner so I will get to see them and eat mom’s cooking once more before I go back to school. All in all, I think this training trip has been very successful and rewarding so far and I cannot wait to bond and achieve even more with my wonderful team around me.

Warmly, Claire

Work hard, play hard….

by Senior Mary McDevitt

Work hard, play hard is essential for training trip. With this being my fourth and last training trip, I’ve learned the importance of this mantra. Practices are grueling and challenging so when I’m at the pool, I need to focus like a laser on my technique and form. But when I’m back at the hotel, I’m relaxing and napping. Today, the playoffs are happening and I relax by watching football and learning how to crochet. These are soothing actions that help me rest for the practices to come.
Coach: “Great new talent! Can you crochet a scarf in time for the trip home to 6 inches of snow?”

One practice at a time….TRAINING TRIP 2017


So it begins, the annual trek south for the proverbial “training trip”. The much-anticipated and highly touted event every college swimmer looks forward to with both excitement and trepidation. As coach, I too have the same mixed emotions but excitement wins out each time, as I greet my athletes at the airport and realize I have my “kids” back under my wing. I will be 100% honest, I miss my team when they are gone and I cannot wait to watch them grow through this annual challenge. For them, I offer these tips for a successful week:

  1. TAKE ONE PRACTICE AT A TIME. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the time in the sun and in the different surroundings. Each practice will bring a new challenge and you might surprise yourself by realizing how great you feel after each session! Did you know recent studies have shown that swimming with a tan and a new Jolyn can improve your performance?
  2. ENJOY THE TIME AWAY FROM ACADEMIC STRESS. Yes, you will actually have time to nap and relax between training sessions. Swimming is your one job this week so enjoy the work then enjoy the break at the beach, or hanging out at the hotel pool with your team mates.
  3. EAT WELL, SLEEP WELL and DRINK LOTS OF WATER.  It is a little warmer in Florida so be sure to drink more during practice and in between sessions. Your coach just took you shopping and loaded you up with a cart full of your favorite foods – just like your mom used to do. Replenish and recover. Sleep will happen without effort.
  4. BOND WITH YOUR TEAM MATES. Take the time to get to know a team mate a little better, help a team mate through a tough set, compliment them, make this a trip for them to talk and laugh about for years to come.
  5. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS – You are blessed with this opportunity to train your healthy body and challenge your limits while your friends are freezing back at home.

Let the training begin……..

A Final Reflection on 2015 – 2016

By: Caroline Thomas, 2019

The school year is coming to an end. We are almost 2 months out of the swim season, and the truth is that I truly miss it. I miss the structure of practice and hanging out with the team. Just the other day I was thinking about how excited and scared I am for training trip which is a little less than 9 months away. Although we will be losing six seniors, I am excited to welcome the new members of the team. With so many new members, it will be interesting and exciting to create a new team dynamic. It is true what the advisors say, it is harder to stay on task when you do not have your sport in season. There is more free time, but I have managed to fill it with work and fun jobs like coaching soccer for Appomattox County High School’s JV girls. I am a duel sport athlete and now I am coaching. If you cannot already tell, I like to stay busy. Next year will be a new and exciting journey and I cannot wait to take it on with my team.

How to Survive Meet Warm-Up 101

By: Lydia Fleck (2016) and Claire Zak (2018)



Every swimmer knows the chaos of Meet Warm-Up. In club swimming, your team has its own lane(s) where your only worry is getting run over by your own team mates (at least you know them, right?). But in college swimming, that all goes out the window and it becomes the swimming version of the Hunger Games. Swimming for a women’s college, I am used to the average splash from my team mates with the occasional blow to the gut from a breaststroke kick or a casual smack in the head from a butterflyer. At meet invitationals and championship meets, I now have to worry about the tsunami waves coming off of the men that are swimming over me without any concern for the safety of my 5’4” self. And why should they? It’s every swimmer for themselves when it comes to warm-up. So to help my fellow swimmers, I have compiled some pointers to increase your chances of surviving the warm-up session:

1.Don’t go underwater in the middle of the lane to let someone pass – I sure hope you can hold your breath for a ridiculously long period of time because no one is going to let you resurface.

2. Kicking – You’re just asking to be ran over!

3. Breastroke – The lane just isn’t wide enough for that kind of nonsense…


(oh hey look…that person is still underwater)

4. Men, listen up! – You never seem to get in lanes with other men. Can you not see that I’m trying to take my time? I don’t appreciate drowning in your waves, so please, go swim with someone your own size.

5. Wall space – please keep your hands, arms, and legs away from the middle of the wall at all times. I am not responsible for any injuries you may receive while in the warm-up lane. Thank you and enjoy your warm up.


(Wow….that guy can hold his breathe for a long time, I think he might be turning blue)

6. Its called circle swimming – stay on your side of the lane and no one will get hurt.

7. Please enter and exit as quickly as possible – No one appreciates being jumped on.

8. Large teams – They need every single lane the pool has to offer. Just find a lane with as few swimmers in it and pray that more don’t join. They tend to multiply like rabbits. Swim into the wall and there’s only 2 people; flip and push off, there’s now 50 people in the lane.


(Sooooo the guy is lying at the bottom of the pool. Can someone alert the lifeguard?)

You are now ready for the traumatic experience of the warm up session. I hope these pointers are helpful in your survival and you are able to exit the pool unscathed. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!


So You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks? Think Again…

By: Hannah Oybkhan 2016
As I sit here thinking about ODACs coming up, I reflect on this past season and the rest of my time at Sweet Briar, most of which I spent on the field hockey and lacrosse fields.  However, I decided to come out of my 11 year “retirement” from swimming and join Sweet Briar’s swim team for my senior year.
The season was not easy though, I had forgotten a lot in that 11 years, but I was able to learn what I needed to and continually improve throughout the year.
It’s kind of weird though, I can relate to the other seniors when they talk about this being their last champs, but it’s different for me because this is my first and last champs.  What’s even weirder is that the season that seemed to be never ending, is coming to a close.
Since I’m primarily a land sport athlete, I learned to love the words “dry land workout” and “lifting session,” but it came as a shock to me when I told one of my teammates last week, “I think I’ve gotten slightly attached to swimming.”  I have never thought I would ever say those words in my life.
At the end of the day, I look at ODACs with a quote from Herb Brooks in mind, “Great moments are born from great opportunities.”  I’ve been fortunate enough to be given this great opportunity, now it’s time make these upcoming moments great!