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ND Women’s Swimming and Diving: Ryan excels during first season for ND

Megan Golden | Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Transitioning to college classes and meeting new friends — while working hard every day in practice — has challenged freshman Kelly Ryan in her first year on the Irish squad.

Balancing Notre Dame academics with Irish athletics proved to be difficult at times for Ryan, but she used her experience from Fenwick High School to help manage her time.

“I think a lot of the lessons I learned earlier in my career were valuable this year,” she said. “It was definitely important to have the determination and time management skills that I learned before coming to college. It is definitely hard to balance the academic, athletic and social parts of life during the season.

“I try to not get too stressed out about school, and swimming helps me to take my mind off of it for a little while.”

Learning to have fun with her friends during practice has made Ryan’s transition much easier to endure.

“Making friends with the girls on the team has made my first season at Notre Dame so much fun,” she said. “They help me to put my school and swimming stresses to the side and just have fun.”

Ryan’s training has certainly paid off, as she currently boasts the best times of any Irish swimmer this season in both the 200-yard freestyle and the 100-yard backstroke.

“I trained with Westmont Swim Club this summer, and my coaches really focused on the technique of my strokes to prepare me for my freshman year at [Notre Dame],” Ryan said. “I think I improved most in my training this year. This year I trained faster and more than I ever had before, so it definitely contributed to my success at the end of the season.

Being able to be on relays with the fastest girls on the team was really exciting for me and pushed me to train harder and swim faster for the team.”

Ryan credits her teammates for teaching her the importance of having fun and improving at the same time.

“I have definitely learned from all of my teammates. They’ve taught me how to be a good teammate and how to really have fun with swimming while working hard,” Ryan said. “I spent a lot of time this year training with [sophomore] Kim Holden and [junior] Amy Prestinario. Both of them are really great to train with because they are hard-working and have positive attitudes.”

Despite Ryan’s improvement this season, Holden said she believes she has the potential to become an even better swimmer.

“It’s been an amazing experience training with Kelly this year. She brings so much energy to our practices and she pushes me every day we’re in the water together,” Holden said. “I was blown away by her swims at the end of this season, and I know she has a lot more in her. I am so excited to train with her these next couple years and see where she can go.”

Ryan, who hails from Hinsdale, Ill., played a huge role for the Irish in the Big East Championships, recording first place in the 100-yard freestyle, while her 400-yard freestyle relay team stole first place from Louisville by .23 seconds. Senior co-captain Kellyn Kuhlke said Ryan’s hard work in practice has paid off at crunch time.

“Being a freshman, at her first conference [meet], she was nervous but had no trouble stepping up and getting the job done because she competed every day in practice,” Kuhlke said. “A lot of people on our team were calling her the best kept secret in the Big East because she got to the meet, rocked her first swim, and never looked back.

Kuhlke echoes many of her teammates, pointing out that Ryan is an example of practice really leading to perfection.

“Kelly is a really hard worker and very unassuming. She competes in practice every day, which definitely pushes people and brings out healthy competition on our team,” Kuhlke said. “On top of that, she is always having fun and has a smile on her face. She is a great teammate and makes working hard a lot of fun, especially now seeing where it has gotten her.”

Ryan will find out Wednesday whether or not her hard work has earned her a trip to the NCAA championships which take place on March 17-19 in Austin, Texas.