Photo Courtesy of Kelsey Maguire
Four swim team seniors reflect on their successful seasons at Pepperdine
It’s like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: swim team edition. Four girls: Ally Bernard, Mae Corbin, Stephanie Ertl and Kelsey Maguire lead the swim team as seniors in their last season. Each swimmer comes from a different background and is drawn to the sport and team by various experiences and reasons. However, the spirit of the sport and their love for the water keeps each girl afloat.
Maguire is geographically on the opposite end of the country from her home state of New York. Regardless, she has found her clique in the shallows and depths of the pool.
“You may know swim team as the ‘Pepper-divas,’” Maguire said. “I am very blessed to have this close group of ladies as my friends. Hanging with the divas and soaking in the hot tub after challenging practices keeps my passion alive for the sport.”
Maguire swims the IM and competed in the 50, 100 and 500 freestyle at the PCSC Championships last season. She believes her greatest accomplishment is watching her times drop at the swim team’s last conference meet of the season.
Besides managing swim, she is a Scholar-Athlete in her fourth season for the Waves. Maguire, an aspiring ‘mermaid,’ can leave the pool but won’t go far, explaining one of the biggest challenges that the swim team enabled her to accomplish to “participate in many open water swimming events. My proudest accomplishment was completing a run-swim from Zuma Beach to Paradise Cove last summer. It was approximately a four mile run and a 1.5 mile swim. The hardest part was dodging the sharks.”
Bernard hails from Porterville, Calif., and enters her second season with the Waves after transferring from Cuesta College. Head Coach Nick Rodionoff remarked on her consistent improvement since joining Pepperdine’s team as a top competitor.
“Ally swam all her personal best times last year in every stroke that she swam,” he said. “She is, even in early season, already within one to two seconds of those personal best times this year. She is a natural leader, a very hard worker and we’re looking forward to a great year for her.”
Bernard says she transferred from Cuesta College to attend and compete for Pepperdine because the people and environment resonate more with her own character. As a DI athlete, she depends on swimming and her team to keep her motivated.
“I love swimming because there are days harder than others, and it’s a great stress reliever as well as atmosphere for me to be in,” Bernard said. “My teammates keep my passion alive for this sport. Spending time with them as well as pushing each other to our greatest potential is awesome, and of course cheering each other on. The team environment is unified and striving to build a better bond as well as preparing for our season.”
Teammate Corbin came to Pepperdine purely for spiritual and academic reasons. After high school, the swimmer was convinced she had seen her last competitive swimming days, but halfway through her freshman year in college, Corbin found her way back into the pool. She took a break to travel to Buenos Aires, then came back and competed for her third year with the Waves.
Although swimming is a commitment, Corbin is dedicated to her team and sport as a means of keeping her focused and motivated. She notes that the swimmers have learned how to master the “natural” look between practice, school and social life:
“In season, we don’t even think about make-up because we are always in and out of the water: morning practices, weights in the afternoon and optional practices in the evening. Sometimes I think, ‘Why even bother showering?’”
Ertl is the final senior to make up the roster, and certainly represents the depth of talent in the swim team through her passion and talent. She is a top swimmer and diver for the Waves, finishing 11th on the 3-meter and 14th in 1-meter in the WCC Championships. Rodionoff believes Ertl’s potential is far from fulfilled.
“She is already very close to her season best scores for last year. In her time at Pepperdine, she has done personal best times in the fly, 500, 1000 and 1650 free. She qualified, for the second year in a row, for LA County Lifeguards,” Rodionoff said. “She is looking for a great senior year.”
Ertl’s bloodline is mingled with chlorine — her father competed in the Olympic Trials in 1976. She committed to becoming a Wave because she desired to be a part of building a great program
“I chose Pepperdine because I knew I wanted to swim in college, but I didn’t want it to take over my whole college experience,” Ertl said. “Pepperdine has allowed me to enjoy both. I came the year after the team was almost cut.
“My greatest accomplishment here has been being able to rebuild the swim program and watch it grow. My freshman year we barely had enough girls to compete and now we have over 20 girls.”
For these four seniors, the pool is more than a lounge spot — it is a second home. The four bring leadership in their final year and look forward to beating past personal records under Rodionoff’s diligent coaching.
No matter where they go after their collegiate swimming careers, Maguire, Bernard, Corbin and Ertl found a way of life in the deep end. Ertl believes this tight-knit team keeps joy at the heart of their sport.
“Our team is competitive and we love to race; however, we never forget the most important part and that is being able to have fun,” Ertl said. “Swimming here makes you realize how much you actually love the sport and why you started swimming in the first place.”
Follow Stasia Demick on Twitter: @sdemick12
As published in the Nov. 14 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.