Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Early success has Johnson smiling

While many freshmen are still trying to figure out how to pack five nights of partying and six nights of studying together into a seven-day week, Susan Johnson is taking advantage of the opportunities she has been provided and is dealing with the difficulties that college life presents in a very different way.

Johnson is trying to fit five nights and six mornings (at 6 a.m., no less) of swimming, the standard freshman social rigors and the challenges of college-level studies together in a week that seems like it simply does not have enough days.

“The first couple weeks here I was completely beat down, and it was just really hard,” Johnson said. “I mean, it’s an elite level of training. We’re there all the time. It’s just an enormous commitment.”


Just over a week away from her 19th birthday, Johnson says that balancing her commitments in and out of the pool hasn’t been as difficult as one might think.

“It was rough at first, but I’ve adjusted to it,” she said. “I know I have to get my work done and can’t just go hang out on the floor, like some of the people I live around.”

The support of her teammates has been crucial for Johnson.

“It helps out a lot that our roommates are swimmers,” she said. “My roommate (Sierra Lewis, who swims the breaststroke) isn’t going to sit there and watch TV and totally distract me.”

The guidance of her elder teammates has also helped ease her shift to college.

“All of the upperclassmen — and the captains in particular — really help,” she said. “Like when you have questions about how things work or about how the team is structured or just when you need an extra pat on the back. It’s so helpful — kind of like having five or six big sisters around to keep an eye on us. It makes it feel more like home. It makes a tough transition much easier.”

The transition has been a bit eye-opening for Johnson in many ways.

“High school was so different. It would just be some small, local team from across town,” she said. “It was really intimate in that way. Here, huge teams come all the way across the country. Like we just went to Arizona; that sort of blew my mind. It’s just a whole new level.”

Her performances in the pool have shown that Johnson has managed to take the transition in stride. She has qualified at the ‘A’ level in two of Wisconsin’s three meets this year, taking first place in the 200-yard backstroke against Iowa and Indiana and first place in the 200-yard butterfly against Iowa. She says she never expected so much success so soon in her college career.

“I never thought I could’ve come this far this fast. Swimming as fast as I am is really blowing my mind. I owe it all to the coaches; they’re the ones who have pushed me and helped me along and been supportive,” she said. “I mean, I’m swimming harder than I thought I ever could have. I was training pretty hard in high school — but the coaches here just push us to another level.”

The early success has somewhat surprised the Ohio recruit who just wanted to help the team by competing on relay teams this season. But winning some heats has raised expectations. Johnson knows that if she swims well at the Texas invitational in early December she has a chance to swim at the NCAA Nationals.

“My goals have definitely changed a bit now. I’m really going to try to get my NCAA cuts so I can compete in March.”

While her personal goals are driving her, it is still team success that Johnson covets. “Being ranked highly right now is a huge motivation,” she said. “We’re ranked No. 12 right now, and we really want to crack that top 10.”

The Badgers have a 2-1 record, with their only loss coming to No. 7-ranked Arizona. The early loss hasn’t affected the team’s morale.

“A loss gets us down,” Johnson admitted. “But Arizona is a really good team, and we put up a good fight. If we’re swimming solidly and having good swims and are all up cheering for each other — those are our main focuses — and if we still lose, then we don’t worry about it too much.”

Johnson admitted that the lack of fan support and media coverage does frustrate the team. “We understand that our meets are a bit boring,” she said. “They’re pretty long, and unless they’re close it’s not that fun to watch. But it’s definitely frustrating to open the paper Monday and not see an article about how we beat Indiana over the weekend.”

As long as she is personally performing well and the team is competitive, she doesn’t have any complaints, though.

“I really didn’t think that I’d be swimming so consistently well this early in the season,” she said. “Every time I get out of the pool, I’m a little bit surprised. It’s been keeping a smile on my face.”

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