May 9, 2006
Honolulu, Hawaii native Ashley Swart admits that, while being recruited, she didn't even really know where San Diego was located on a map. That didn't hold her back, however, from choosing the University of San Diego as the place where she wanted to swim for the next four years. Besides San Diego, Swart was heavily recruited by Texas A&M, Hawaii, and the University of Washington, but chose USD after only one visit.
"Out of all the schools that I was looking at, Coach Keeler was the only coach that really saw my potential and really believed that I could do better in the sport," said Swart about her reasons for choosing USD.
Head swimming coach Mike Keeler can recall watching Swart swim at a meet in Washington and knowing that she would be a perfect fit for the San Diego roster.
"She's very talented technically which is really important to me," said Keeler. "She was swimming and she had a technique that really made you take notice."
As a true freshman, Swart made an immediate impact on the USD swim program, shattering six school records and individually setting a pair of new Pacific Collegiate Swimming Conference (PCSC) records in the process.
"I usually aim to just swim and swim well but after I broke one record, it became my goal to keep breaking records. That's what really drove me in my dual meets especially," said Swart.
In 2003, Swart became the first San Diego swimmer in program history to qualify for the NCAA Championships where she placed 11th nationally in the 400 IM with a time of 4:15.01. Her performance earned her an NCAA All-America Honorable Mention and an NCAA Academic All-American award. Furthermore, the PCSC named her the 2003 co-Swimmer of the Year and gave her a spot on the All-PCSC First Team.
"[Swart] had a stellar freshman year," recalls Coach Keeler. "She came in and her mental attitude was at another level. I think she realized some of her talent that year and showed the country how good she is."
A key part of Swart's career as a Torero was the transition that the team made to join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) in October of 2004. Although San Diego had been a member of the PCSC since 1976, Coach Keeler felt his swimmers were ready to compete at the next level.
"When Coach Keeler told me that they were thinking about making the transition, I was really happy," said Swart. "I thought it was a great way not only for our swimmers to do better and to have better competition, but for our school to get better recognition for new recruits."
In only their second year in the conference, Swart won three events at this year's WAC Championships. She took first in the 200 IM with a time of 2:04.91, first in the 400 IM with a time of 4:22.14, and first place in the 200 breaststroke with a time of 2:18.41. Even with such a strong performance, however, Swart wasn't even sure if she would qualify for this year's NCAA Tournament.
"She was in that `don't know for sure' category so she had to continue training which is another challenge," said Keeler. "You're training for something and you don't even know if you're going to make it."
Swart was listed as an alternate and finally received the announcement that she had qualified for her third NCAA tournament just one week prior to her first event. She took 29th place overall in the 400 IM with a time of 4:20.61 and clocked in at 2:16.93 to take 34th place in the 200 breaststroke.
"For the situation she was in," said Keeler, "she did an outstanding job."
"These past four years have been really exceptional," said Swart of her Torero swimming career. "I've learned a lot of things about my swimming, I've improved and I was able to compete at a higher level in some really big meets."
As of now, Swart is unsure about whether or not to continue swimming. She will begin student teaching in the fall and from there hopes to attend graduate school. Whether or not she pursues her swimming career, however, one thing is for certain - after the last four years, the USD record books will never be the same. Swart has left a legacy behind her that the Torero swim teams will continue to build on for years to come.