Anderson Prepares For Biggest Summer Yet
It's been well over a decade since Arizona Wildcat Alyssa Anderson first discovered her talent in the water.
"I did get in the water at a young age and just kind of fell in love with it," she said. "It was natural, I'd say."
When Anderson was first looking at colleges, she was already a world-class swimmer having made an appearance at the Olympic Trials out of high school.
"I mean, gosh, what an exciting time, being recruited. Just feeling wanted, you know you can't really explain it," Anderson said, "The thing that stuck with me the most was Arizona's improvement times, where the girls entered and where in four years did they end up. And that spoke volumes for me, and that's what I was looking for. Where am I going to improve the most and be the best?"
Since then, Anderson has dropped anywhere from four to six seconds in her main events of freestyle and relay. Anderson is an 11-time All-American and the school-record holder in the 500 freestyle with a time of 4:34.34.
Now a senior, Anderson has begun to evaluate the next chapter of her life.
"I don't know who said it, but this saying has always kind of stuck with me. It's: 'How do you want to be remembered?'" Anderson said. "Just every day [I try to] have fun with it and enjoy my teammates, enjoying the moment because they are your last. [I try] not taking things for granted."
Now in the midst of preparing for real a shot at the Olympic Games, Anderson is coming into it with more clarity.
"This year is such a 'What if?' year because me being a senior, then [Olympic Trials] falling after, there's just so many ways things could go. If you look at it in a scary sense, it's really daunting. But in the moment it's exciting," Anderson said.
Skinny and lanky when she was first introduced to collegiate swimming in one of the toughest conferences in the country, Anderson has since gained not only muscle, but also valuable lessons that will help her upon graduation day.
"I don't think I would've done anything differently. I think I've learned from everything. I had a sophomore slump, but learned a lot from that confidence wise. After a great freshman year I kind of freaked myself out and got under the expectations," said Anderson. "There was a lot of learning and struggles mentally with the pressure, but I just think I had more in me."
Arizona swimming underwent a change in coaching staff halfway through Anderson's career as a Wildcat, a challenge the team as a whole had to overcome. As her last appearance in the NCAA Championships approaches, Anderson believes she and her teammates have what it takes to win the meet.
"With transition always comes a doubt. With this new coaching staff, I think the team struggled a little but for those that bought in to it they reaped the rewards," Anderson said. "Everyone's bought in now."
The life of a college swimmer isn't always easy, but for Anderson it was necessary to face struggles in order to dig deep and find the confidence to swim faster and grow as an individual.
"I'd like to think I experienced more being a student-athlete. Having that sense of team and family and commitment to something greater than myself," Anderson said. "I don't think I've missed out on anything. I've made great friends, learned so much, had ups and downs and learned from it all."
Anderson is now in transition from being among the top collegiate swimmers in the country to taking a leap into the professional world of swimming, something not many 21-year-olds have to learn to balance.
"Sometimes I freak myself out and think, 'Oh my gosh - this is it. What am I going to do? Where am I going to be in a year?'" said Anderson. "But I had a good summer and have been training really hard. If I make it - gosh - dreams do come true."