Swim’s Schluntz named Rhodes Scholar

Mike Schmitz

In her time at Arizona, senior freestyle swimmer Justine Schluntz has been known for her fast time-splits and NCAA championship prowess. But after becoming one of only 32 people to be named a 2009 American Rhodes Scholar, it’s obvious that Schluntz is much more than just an athlete.

“”Working with her on her essay and also reading her letters of reference, it wasn’t just ‘Hey she’s a great student’ or ‘Hey she’s a great swimmer,'”” said Karna Walter, the Director of Nationally Competitive Scholarships at the UA.””It was as much, ‘Hey this is a woman of incredible character and leadership who has shown that in so many different ways in so many different settings.'””

Schluntz graduated from the UA summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering last May. The 2008 NCAA championship member and nine-time All-American is now a graduate student in fluid dynamics.

Schluntz is also a Big Sister and represents the swim and dive team as a member of the UA Student Athlete Advisory Committee. Needless to say, Schluntz has taken on quite the workload, and has been stellar in virtually every aspect.

She graduated early after going through four years of undergraduate as a mechanical engineering major with only one “”B”” to her name.

In the athletics department, she redshirted her freshman year due to a shoulder injury but came back the next season and made an instant impact in the water.

“”She became an All-American, national champion, top-8 finisher in multiple events, all with the class load that she maintains,”” said head coach Frank Busch. “”To say that she would be deserving (of the award) would be the biggest understatement out there.””

“”She’s someone dedicated to doing the right way and puts in all of the time necessary to have success,”” Busch added. “”That’s just off-the-charts dedication, desire and drive.””

That dedication, desire and drive helped Schluntz become one of 32 people chosen from a pool of 805 applicants to earn the chance to study at the University of Oxford in England for three years.

She began her application at the beginning of the summer and met with Dr. Walter for about six-to-eight weeks to work on her essay. Each applicant would apply to the school and earn a nomination through their university.

Those nominations were then narrowed down to 12 people for each of the 16 districts. Schluntz and the other 11 people in her district traveled to Colorado Springs, Col., last Saturday where she was interviewed and eventually named a Rhodes Scholar.

Even with all of the accolades in and outside of the pool, Schluntz still couldn’t believe that she won the award.

“”I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it,”” Schluntz said. “”I started crying a little bit. It’s a kind of thing where no matter how good you think you are, there’s no way you can expect to win.””

Attaining the scholarship that’s worth an estimated $50,000 per year is certainly no easy feat. While she clearly put the time and effort into winning such an honor, Schluntz cites the standards of the UA swim and dive team as one of the major reasons for her success.

“”I’m really lucky because it’s just the culture of our team, that’s why we have so many successful people,”” Schluntz said. “”So when you come on this team as a freshman, and you have successful and motivated people who are leading the team, it’s hard to go wrong.””

The standout freestyle swimmer became the first UA athlete ever to be named a Rhodes Scholar. Schluntz plans to make the best of the honor and will look into the detraction of tidal energy from the ocean as a renewable resource while at Oxford.

“”I want to learn about this resource, tidal energy, and try to advocate it back in the states, where it’s not so well known yet,”” Schluntz said.

Schluntz has always had high goals for herself, and at this point in her swimming and academic career, she has accomplished virtually everything that she possible could have, leaving there little reason to believe she will stop now.

“”I’m very confident that she will take it as far as she can take it and will tap as much potential as possible,”” Walter said of Schluntz’ tidal energy plan. “”I definitely wouldn’t bet against her.””

 

Profile:

Justine Schluntz

Age: 22

Class: Graduate student

Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.

Event: Freestyle

Accomplishments:

2008 NCAA championship member

Nine-time All-American

Participated in 2004 and 2008 U.S. Olympic trials

2009 NCAA Top Finishes

200 freestyle relay: 1st 1:26.20

400-medley relay: 1st 3:28.31

 

 

Q&A:

Daily Wildcat: How does this award compare to the 2008 NCAA title and all of your personal accolades?

Justine Schluntz: Two years ago, when we won the NCAA title as a team, one of the things we had done was win the 800y relay. It was a relay we really weren’t supposed to win and really didn’t think about winning until the middle of the race.

The feeling I had after that was just overwhelmed because you didn’t even consider that you could actually win it. It was the same exact emotion for me here and my reaction was pretty much the same also.

It was the same exact thing, just the only difference was having my teammates around me to celebrate. That’s the only thing I would have wished was different.