GREENSBORO, N.C. – Although countless swimmers dream of an opportunity like the one she had, there was something that just didn’t seem right for Sam Senczyszyn.
She committed to swim at Arizona, and while it was an NCAA Division I school, it was located nearly 1,900 away from her home in Grafton, Wisconsin. Senczyszyn didn’t necessarily want to continue her education right down the street, but that was crazy.
The fact was, Senczyszyn was just a little bit scared.
“DI kind of intimidated me, and I wasn’t fully on board for it,” said Senczyszyn, who placed third in the 200 individual medley Wednesday. She is also slated to compete in the 100 breaststroke Friday and the 200 breaststroke Saturday. “I didn’t want to overcommit myself. If my heart just wasn’t completely in it, I thought that would be a huge commitment if I wasn’t totally in for it.”
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She looked for DIII schools closer to home. Swimming was important, and the school had to have a good program in middle childhood education. One of Senczyszyn’s club teammates swam for Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and just like that, connections were made.
Her connection to head coach Annie Ryder was almost instant.
“I started e-mailing her and then I came and met her in Eau Claire one day when I came to visit,” Senczyszyn said. “She was super excited, I was super excited. It all just worked out nicely.
“I talked to Annie, and as soon as we met, it was a go. It was great. She was super-nice. I just knew it was a good fit. I think Annie was pretty excited. It was a lot of fun.”
Asked what it was about Wisconsin-Eau Claire that finally sold her, Senczyszyn laughed.
“I looked at some other DIII schools as well, but I liked Annie the best out of all the coaches I met,” she added. “Also, they have a very good education program, so that kind of sold me as well. It’s like the perfect distance away from home, not too close, not too far.”
For the record, maybe 230 miles and a drive of a little more than three hours separate Grafton from Eau Claire.
With her major, Senczyszyn wants to eventually teach middle school, hopefully in English. It was a dream that has been with her for a few years now, ever since she began teaching swimming lessons while still in high school.
“At first, I wasn’t that great at it,” Senczyszyn admitted. “But I learned to love it, and I got really good with the kids and I moved up to coaching. I’ve been working with kids and middle schoolers.
“I still do. I coach now in Chippewa Falls, which is about twenty minutes away from Eau Claire. I coach a Y team of middle schoolers, and I love the age and I love working with kids, so I just figured it would be a nice fit.”
With the kind of skill Senczyszyn has in the pool, some would assume that she might eventually chose to transfer to a bigger school at some point. That’s what they might assume, but she insists that it’s not what’s going to happen.
She's happy right there in Eau Claire.
“At the beginning of the year, I thought about (going to a DI school),” she admitted. “But once the season started, I met the team and started working with Annie. I know this is where I’m supposed to be. I’ve been so happy with it so far. I feel part of a family. Annie does a great job and I love my teammates. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Part of a family? Senczyszyn couldn’t ask for anything more than that.