Ryan reflects on Notre Dame career
Alex Wilcox | Wednesday, January 29, 2014
With Senior Night and the end of her swimming career fast approaching, senior backstroker Kelly Ryan is using her final moments with the Irish to leave behind a legacy.
Ryan has swam in the Olympic trials, been named an All-American, and captained Notre Dame during her junior year, accomplishments she will carry with her after graduation.
“It’s been an awesome fours years, I could never imagine being where I am today,” Ryan said. “I’ve grown a lot as an athlete and person and the people at Notre Dame made that possible. I came from a club team and was a raw athlete coming here, and I just improved a lot through hard work and believing in myself, which I learned here.”
This weekend’s Irish Invitational will be Senior Day for Ryan, Sarah Dotzel, Mikelle Masciantonio, Christen McDonough, Kelly Ryan, and Lauren Stauder. For Ryan, she knows it will be an emotional weekend.
“I’ve come to think of Rolf’s Aquatic Center as a second home to me, and it will always hold a special place in my heart,” Ryan said. “I’ve had so many memories there, both good and bad, and made some of the best friends of my life there, so I’ll be a little sad leaving on Saturday.”
Ryan said of all her accomplishments with the Irish, the 2012 NCAA Championships will always be her favorite.
“I surprised myself at the 200-yard-backstroke and took seventh, which earned me All-America honors,” Ryan said. “It was a turning point in my career because it made me realize that I could swim with the top girls in the country. From a confidence standpoint, that was huge.”
That turning point propelled Ryan toward her best season yet, as she earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in two events, All-Big East honors in six events, and was named a team captain.
“Being a captain was such a huge honor,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t really expecting it because I was junior, so I was just really honored to be selected as a co-captain. It was fun to lead the team and we had a successful year.”
While she is not a captain this year, Ryan said she’s proud of the way her senior class has led the team.
“This year all the seniors have really stepped up and proven to be leaders even if they aren’t officially captains, so that’s really great to see,” Ryan said. “I try to lead more by example but I am vocal too. I always work hard in the pool and I’m always the one that cheers in the pool and yells ‘Go Irish!’ all the time, although I don’t know if everyone always likes that, but I feel it helps.”
In addition to the leadership of the senior class, Ryan has also been pleased with the success sustained in the pool.
“I think as a team we’ve been really good this year,” Ryan said. “We’ve been working harder than we ever had before and its really paying off in dual meets and skill work. At conference we’ll really be able to see all the work we put in.”
While the Irish Invitational is the last home meet of the season, the team is far from done. In order to prepare for their first ever ACC Conference Championships in February and the NCAA championships in March, Ryan said she is focusing on two things.
“My two main goals are to stay focused and stay confident,” Ryan said. “It’s really important to focus on details and technique going into conference. Confidence is a big deal to me; I have to be confident in myself, in my coaches, and in my teammates.”
After graduating, the pre-med and Spanish double major hopes to take a year off from school volunteering and shadowing doctors in Spanish-speaking countries before eventually going to med school.
Before she does that, though, she has a legacy to pass on.
“I hope to leave the message that it doesn’t really matter where you start, you can still succeed if you work hard, have confidence, trust in your coaches and teammates, and just keep at it.”