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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Nymeyer reaches pinnacle of NCAA honors

The silver medal-winning U.S. 4x100-meter Freestyle Relay team, from left, Dara Torres, Kara Lynn Joyce, Lacey Nymeyer and Natalie Coughlin, celebrate on the medal stand on Sunday, August 10, 2008, in the games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT)
The silver medal-winning U.S. 4×100-meter Freestyle Relay team, from left, Dara Torres, Kara Lynn Joyce, Lacey Nymeyer and Natalie Coughlin, celebrate on the medal stand on Sunday, August 10, 2008, in the games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/MCT)

Olympic silver medalist, two-time Pacific 10 Conference Swimmer of the Year and NCAA National Champion Lacey Nymeyer has an endless list of accolades. But her most telling award, as far as Nymeyer the person goes, was given to the All-American Sunday night.

Nymeyer won the 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year award, an honor given to a collegiate athlete that shines both in school — see Nymeyer’s 3.89 GPA — and in the community.

“”It’s the most prestigious thing that the NCAA does,”” said head coach Frank Busch. “”It’s almost unreal.””

This was not only an honor for Busch and the UA athletics department, both of whom Nymeyer thanked in her acceptance speech, but was also the third time the NCAA honor was given to a Wildcat. Former swimmer Whitney Myers won in 2007, and high jumper Tanya Hughes represented the Wildcats in 1994.

“”I’m not sure I can explain (how it is) to sit there and see the resumes of the 30 finalists,”” Busch said, “”and then they show a two-minute video clip of the nine finalists, and you think, ‘Wow, these women are off-the-charts spectacular in what they’ve done.'””

“”And then when they announce someone that you’ve been associated with for the last six years … this is as good as it gets.””

Busch sat live with Nymeyer at an Indianapolis, Ind., convention center as hundreds of people watched the Olympian accept the award. Over 100 nominees attended the ceremony and witnessed a spotlight shine on the Arizona swimmer as her name was announced.

“”She didn’t know what to do, she was literally, completely dumbfounded,”” Busch said. “”(She) didn’t know which way to turn, whether to get up whether to sit down, whether to start crying; she was in complete shock.””

Once she composed herself, Nymeyer gave a brief speech, visibly still surprised about receiving the award.

“”What a great life lesson that is … to use our athletics as a way where we can make a difference, not only in our lives, but in the lives of other people,”” Nymeyer said in her acceptance speech.

She went on to thank the Arizona Athletics, but spent the majority of her speech thanking her parents, who she credited for being her “”foundation.””

“”I didn’t have to be an athlete, and I didn’t have to worry about grades,”” she said of being with her parents. “”I could just be Lacey. I could just be their kid.””

Then, she talked about Busch’s coaching, not only from his teachings about swimming, but about life.

“”It’s not just about swimming, it’s not just about the awards,”” she said. “”It’s about who you are and how you represent yourself.””

Back in Arizona, one of Nymeyer’s old coaches beamed about the honor she’d received.

“”It speaks to Lacey’s character,”” said assistant coach and Frank Busch’s son Augie Busch of Nymeyer’s award. “”She’s way more than just a swimmer.””

And Nymeyer, a Tucson native and Marana Mountain View High School graduate, has the personality that parallels the Arizona swimming program. That’s what has drawn top recruits, not to mention dual national championships, to Tucson.

“”Everyone’s like a big family,”” said freshman Hilary Bell, who chose to swim at Arizona after growing up in Ontario, Canada. “”I think that (former swimmers returning) helps this program out a lot, because they influence you so much, and you can learn so much just by watching them and seeing how much they’ve grown over the years.””

Nymeyer still trains with the Arizona team at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center, looking towards a 2012 Olympic berth.

That connection to the university, where she earned a physical education degree, has been the backbone of the swimming program. Her loyalty has been seen outside of the swim team as well, whether in Nymeyer’s book readings at local schools or her various swim clinics all over the nation.

But she still bleeds red and blue.

“”Top recruits come here to swim with Lacey Nymeyer,”” Augie Busch said. “”When she opens her mouth, people listen.””

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