Senior swimmer Smart looks to finish strong with Arizona
One of Arizona’s most talented swimmers, six-time All-American senior Lauren Smart, did not play last year.
Smart, who holds the North Carolina state high school records in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke and the 100-yard butterfly from a successful 2007 season, was not eligible until spring of 2012, after transferring from Virginia in the spring of 2011 to find a “different training philosophy,” as she tells it.
She landed at the UA, where she has earned three more All-American selections and is now just a few meets away from the end of her collegiate career.
But Smart still reminisces on where her love from swimming came from, after setting all those records in 2007.
“2007 was a real breakout year for me,” Smart said. “I dropped a lot of time and that was when I was most excited about the potential of what I can do and where I can go with swimming.”
At first, Smart was convinced that her talent and training from high school could withstand the discipline of a collegiate level swim team, but soon realized that the program she was a part of at the University of Virginia was worlds away from what she was used to in high school. She said the pressure-packed atmosphere was draining her physically and emotionally.
“I swam really well when I was there [Virginia],” Smart said. “I dropped a lot of time, but it was hard, a 360-degree difference from what I was used to in high school.
I don’t regret going there because I learned a lot about myself and just how far I could push myself in training. I think it has helped me in every place I’ve gone to since.”
While swimming for Virginia, Smart succeeded despite constant pressure from her coaching staff. As a freshman, she was named to the ACC Academic Honor Roll and earned honorable mention awards in the 200-yard medley relay.
Due to the constant stress she was under while at Virginia, Smart began to lose her passion for the sport and began to feel relief instead of excitement upon finishing races. She knew then that she needed a change of scenery.
“I knew I needed to transfer,” Smart said. “I just wasn’t myself and was so stressed that I didn’t feel like me. I wanted to go somewhere with a different training philosophy, which I knew the UA had. The program here is great and has always been strong. They are willing to try anything different and aren’t just about yardage.”
As spring 2012 neared, Smart became more and more eager and ready to go. In her first year as a Wildcat, she was awarded three All-American honors after finishing second in the 200 and 400-yard medley relays and tenth in the 100-yard backstroke at the 2012 NCAA Championships.
“Lauren has been a great part of our team,” head coach Eric Hansen said. “She has the potential to be one of the main difference-makers for us at the end of the year and will be an integral part of most all of our relays. I expect her in the hunt for a title at NCAA Championships this year and for her, the sky is the limit.”
As Smart heads into her final collegiate semester, she said she feels the anticipation of what is to come more than anxiety of her career potentially being over.
“It feels great that I’m in my last year,” Smart said. “It’s crazy that it’s already happening. I had to sit out a year, so this will be my fifth year in the college scene, but I can’t wait. I know my place, I know how to train, and I know how to push other people. I feel like I can be a leader as far as training and pushing other girls.”