Feature: Women's Swimming's Shelly Ripple
March 20, 2002
Sport: Women's Swimming
Shelly Ripple's energy, smile and attitude will just blow you away.
'I really like Shelly Ripple,' says Stanford head and three-time Olympic head coach Richard Quick. 'She's a lot of fun to coach and a lot of fun to dream with. Her personality is upbeat, smiling and giving.'
You would think that the popular, successful and happy Stanford swimmer has had a charmed career. The reality is that despite being one of the top female swimmers in the world, Ripple is still waiting for 'her day' to come.
She's been close on several occasions.
Ripple is a 17-time All-American and has been on four winning relay teams at the NCAA Championships but has never won an individual title, finishing second nationally in three different events (200 yard IM, 200 yard fly, 200 meter back) over the past two years. She ranks on Stanford's all-time Top 10 lists in six different events but does not hold an individual school record.
As a team, Stanford has finished second twice and third once at the NCAA's during her career. Last year, the Cardinal missed out on the team title by 1.5 points to Georgia in the closest finish ever.
But the most defining moment for Ripple may have come after arguably her biggest individual disappointment at the 2000 United State Olympic Trials when she finished fourth in the 200 meter fly and third in the 200 meter back to narrowly miss qualifying for the Olympic team.
'I was in tears and Richard (Quick) knew I was emotionally shot after finishing four in the 200 meter fly,' recalled Ripple. 'He told me right there that I didn't have to show up the next morning to swim the 200 meter back. He told me that I could just watch the rest of the meet, enjoy myself and then go home. I was up until 4:00 a.m. (the night before the 200 back), upset and almost to the point of depression ... asking myself 'Why do I swim?' ... and thinking that I didn't want to swim any more, and that this isn't worth it.'
However, Ripple's tenacity and ultimate positive attitude would not allow her thoughts in the middle of the night to get the best of her. She showed up the next morning at the prelims for the 200 back, on almost no sleep, and qualified for the semifinals. She finished fourth at the semifinals to reach the finals and then at the finals 'her day' ... didn't quite come. She finished third, one spot from making the Olympic squad.
'The tears came again, because I thought I could make it,' recalled Ripple. 'It was a quite a scene on the deck. Richard (Quick) and I were both crying hysterically. He virtually picked me up out of the pool and took me to a back room, where I just told him that my day is coming.'
Ripple hopes 'her day' will finally come this week at the NCAA Championships. But when you ask Ripple, 'her day' seems to be more focused on how the team does, not solely her performance as an individual.
'It's been my dream to win an NCAA team title ever since I've been at Stanford,' emphasized Ripple. 'I walked into Stanford with the attitude that we were going to win four (NCAA) rings, but I realized right away in my freshman year how much it takes to win the national title. This year, we really think it can come true. We have as good a shot as anyone.'
Ripple says that she is already living a dream in her final season at Stanford.
In the pool, she and the entire squad have been fantastic. The Cardinal cruised through the regular season with an 8-0 dual meet record and dominated the Pac-10 Championships to win its first team title since Ripple was a freshman in 1999. Individually, Ripple won all three of her events at the Pac-10 Meet and is unbeaten in the 200 fly this season, an event she'll enter the NCAA's this year with the nation's best time.
Ripple emphasizes that she's changed her approach this season.
'I've focused more on smiling and just enjoying it. The biggest change I've made personally is to seize each and every day. I've enjoyed the process of the year and made the most of it so far. I'm totally ready to make the most of the NCAA's.'
Ripple is grateful to her father Steve, a former football player at LSU, for some advice that has helped her with the tough times and given her hope for the future.
'My dad always says 'Faith in the future gives you power over the present.' He says it over and over again, and it totally helps me.'
Quick also has faith in the future and believes that Ripple's day is coming.
'If you keep coming in life and keep coming in athletics, you have a chance to do something special,' said Quick. 'Shelly just keeps on coming, and she's knocking on the door of greatness.'
by Kyle McRae
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