Oregon State's Dole Destined For The Pool
"There's no way I'm joining a swim team. No way," she said.
At nine years old on a trip home from the grocery store with her mother, Jenni Dole made this declaration after her mom suggested the idea. But Dole's career in swimming was inevitable, and she accepted her mother's suggestion to join the team.
Now a junior swimmer at Oregon State, Dole credits her parents with influencing her decision to begin the sport of swimming. Water is in her blood; her father was a swimmer and played water polo in college.
Prior to her start in swimming, though, Dole was involved in gymnastics. But her local gym closed, and it wasn't feasible for her mother to tote her young daughter on the two-hour trip to the next closest gym. And so began what has become a very successful swimming career.
Success was immediate for Dole, a Spokane, Wash., native. After graduating high school, Dole competed at the U.S. Olympic trials in the 100 butterfly, she credits this experience as being good preparation for swimming at the collegiate level.
"Just being there with all the other Olympians is a little bit nerve-racking," Dole said. "It was really a great experience, just to be able to swim in the same pool as them, and be in the same events as Natalie Coughlin and all the big Olympians.
It was a little scary at first, but I think it was needed. I mean, especially just going into college, racing in the Pac-10, I feel like it was good preparation for college swimming."
As she headed into the world of collegiate competition, Dole's choice to become a Beaver was an easy if multi-faceted decision.
"It was far away enough from home. I think it's a seven-and-a-half hour drive," she said. "But it's close enough that I can go home on holidays and see my family. So, that was definitely a plus."
She also credits her former coach with pointing her in the direction of Corvallis.
"Larry Liebowitz is an amazing coach," Dole said. "My club coach at home, actually, told me about Larry and what a great coach he is, and how he's worked with all these different Olympians. That kind of geared me towards looking at Oregon State."
Dole has enjoyed much success in her three seasons with the Beavers. This year as a team captain, she led the team with 13 individual dual wins, and has NCAA "B" Standard qualifying times in the 100 and 200 backstroke as well as the 100 butterfly.
For Dole, her career highlight thus far was her performance at the Toshiba Classic in November of 2010. She set school records in two events, and posted personal bests in almost all of her races.
"It was really cool to be like, 'Finally, I did it,'" she said. "It got me really motivated for the rest of the season, because if I can do this in November, then I can't wait for what [Pac-10 competition] brings for me."
After her parents had such an influence in her choice to become a swimmer, it's no surprise that they (as well as other family members) make an effort to attend as many of Dole's meets as possible.
"It's really nice having their support at meets where I have to travel," Dole said. "There aren't always a lot of Beaver fans [at away meets] there supporting us, so it's nice."
She receives this support not only from her family, but also from the makeshift family in her teammates.
"I genuinely feel that everyone likes each other. We're like a big family," Dole said. "I feel like anyone can go to any one of our teammates, and talk to them or ask them for advice, and just have an open conversation with every girl. Despite being with each other six hours a day, we still aren't sick of each other."
With the support of her family and teammates, Dole set school records this year in the 100 and 200-yard backstroke events, and helped set the school record in the 200 freestyle relay. She says this year's success is a result of a conscious decision she made over the summer after her sophomore year.
"This past summer, I realized I was halfway done with my career," she said. "It was kind of a reality check. I thought, 'I really need to start working hard. I only have two more years left. I just need to give it my all.'"
It looks like the hard work is paying off. Dole and the Beavers head into the Pac-10 Championships with great momentum, and are hoping to earn a title.
Looking ahead, Dole is planning to continue her swimming career after she's done at Oregon State, to get back to the Olympic trials for 2012, and hopefully earn a spot on the Olympic team.
"When I'm done with my eligibility, I think I'm going to keep swimming," Dole said. "I guess we'll see where it takes me after that."