By Marilyn Baer
Freshman swimmer Jessica Ward received 13th place and honorable mention All-America status last weekend at the NCAA swimming and diving national championship in Shenandoah, Texas.
This is the first time since 1994 that a Bishops women’s swimmer has earned multiple All-America honors at a single championship meet.
Ward competed in the 100-yard backstroke, the 200-yard backstroke and the 200-yard individual medley.
“I was super nervous for each event, especially the 100 back because that is my event,” Ward said.
Her nerves were relieved by her fellow teammates, however.
“The whole time I was at nationals all my teammates were texting me and wishing me good luck and they were cheering for me,” Ward said. “Knowing that they were there supporting me the whole time helped take away a lot of the nerves because I didn’t feel like I was doing this alone.”
In the 100 backstroke preliminary, Ward beat her previous school record with a time of :55.58 and advanced to the finals where she won fifth place and All-American status, with a time of :55.87.
Ward placed fifth in the 200-backstroke consolation final finishing in 2:02.80, which was within :00.5 of her best time.
In the 200 Individual Medleys her time of 2:09.00 eclipsed the school record of 2:10.93 set in 1992 which she said is a “personal best.”
However her time in the Individual Medleys did not qualify her for the event finals.
Head coach Richard Hawes believes Ward’s performance at the meet was “excellent.”
“As a freshman, she showed great poise, staying composed and performing at her very best at such a highly competitive event,” Hawes said. “I am very proud of her.”
Ward has been swimming since she was eight years old and said she has a vigorous training schedule.
“Over the year I practiced Monday through Thursday in the morning and then every day during our normal practice,” Ward said. “The morning practices were only 2,000-3,000 yards while our regular practices are normally double that.”
Ward said 20 minutes before each race she warms up and then waits. While waiting she mentally prepares by listening to music.
“I like to listen to the song One Way Or Another (Teenage Kicks) by One Direction,” Ward said. “When I swim backstroke I have a certain rhythm and this song has the same rhythm, so it helps me get the right tempo.”
Ward said she left the NCAA Championship meet with no regrets.
“I had two goals going into the season, one, go a :55 in my 100 back and two, go to nationals,” Ward said. “I met both my goals, so I would not have done anything differently.”
Ward said that this season’s victories couldn’t have been achieved alone.
“I do want to add though that a huge part of how this season went is due to the fact that Richard Hawes is an amazing coach and that I have such a great team,” Ward said.
She attributes hard work, positivity and confidence to her early successes as swimmer.
“I believe in myself,” Ward said. “I try and avoid negative thoughts and I try to not think things like I’m not fast enough etc. because I am fast enough and it’s those kinds of negative thoughts that keep people from reaching their goals. You just have to be confident in yourself. Being confident is not being cocky or stuck up its knowing who you are and what you’re capable of. I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of and I know I have to work hard to reach my full potential.”