Muhammad Ali once said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
Like Ali, Arianna Sunyak, captain of the women’s swimming team, hates mornings, but she stills wakes up every morning to go to practice because she believes hard work pays off.
Growing up in Ohio, Sunyak, senior environmental science major, began her swimming career at 8-years-old. Although she’s originally from Ohio, she considers herself Floridian since she’s lived in Naples for the last 10 years.
“At first I did not compete. I just took swimming lessons. When I turned 12, it got more serious because I really liked swimming. I got involved with a competitive team and kept going from there.”
In high school, she did not plan to continue swimming in college. However, her high school coach inspired her so much that she changed her mind. Instead of abandoning swimming in the pursuit of learning, she found a way to do both.
“If it weren’t for my high school coach I probably wouldn’t be here. He was the one who inspired me the most to keep swimming after high school, and I’m very thankful for that,” said Sunyak.
Sunyak realized she needed to be more organized to better manage her time between classes and practice. She said that something essential in her life is her notebook. She writes everything down so she remembers to do it.
Aside from swimming, Sunyak also makes time for her role as a student ambassador in undergraduate admissions, where she participates in events that host perspective students. She is also a member of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, which focuses on volunteering and fundraising opportunities within the athletic department.
Her most recent achievement was competing in three finals at the 2014 Sunshine State Conference Championship, where she set personal best marks in all three events.
I got the chance to sit down with Sunyak and ask her a few questions.
How would you describe yourself as a swimmer?
“I would describe myself as dedicated, hard-working and passionate. Overall, I think a person must be passionate about what they do. You are dedicating so much time into it.”
Do you have any special rituals before going to the pool?
“Usually I think about my race, but I try not to as much. I try to avoid focusing on the time because it makes me freak out. I think positively on how fast I can be, how I am going to control my breath.”
Do you plan to continue swimming competitively after college?
“I do not. I have been swimming for quite a long time. I can definitely see myself doing a master’s program. I might just swim for exercise.”
What’s your favorite part of competition?
“My favorite part about competing is self-improvement. I love being able to see the times I set for myself, and how the hard work is paying off. It is really nice to see positive outcomes; it encourages me not to give up.”
Who’s your favorite swimmer?
“I don’t really have one because there are a lot to choose from. The one that I like the most is an old-school one: Nathalie Coughlin.”
If you could play another sport at NSU, what would it be?
If a movie were to be made about your life, who would you want to play your role?
“I would like Nila Kunis to play me”
Would you like your children to swim as well?
“Yes, of course. I would because I know how swimming helped me. But, I won’t be one of those moms who force their kids to enroll in an activity they don’t like. Only if they really want it.”
What do you think of when you’re underwater?
“I really don’t think that much when swimming, but it depends on what’s going on in my life at the time. I like the quietness that’s underwater. The difference is huge when I come back up and the world is just happening around me.”
Have you ever injured yourself?
“I have. I had a herniated disc once from weight lifting, not swimming. It is a minor injury and doesn’t bother me anymore.”
What would you have done differently in your swimming experience?
“I would have been more aggressive early. At the beginning I was very shy and quiet which maybe have prevented me from getting more out of this experience.”
How to you celebrate winning?
“Most of the time I celebrate with the team. We have little pep-talks from the coach and usually someone’s mom brings brownies.”
Is practice harder after a losing?
“Yes it is, but it depends on the game. Most of the time, it motivates us.”
What would you recommend those people who want to get started with swimming?
“I would recommend those who are planning on swimming just to go for it. You would never know if you like it unless you try it.”