A brief nightmare has led collegiate swimmer Marlena Pigliacampi to reach her dream conference.
Before she had ever swum any laps as a Fighting Hawk, former Seabreeze swimmer and valedictorian Marlena Pigliacampi could see herself in the University of North Dakota’s swimming pool two years ago, which led to her commitment. She has excelled in her swimming career at UND, but Pigliacampi’s career with the school came to an abrupt end when the school decided to cut the swimming program in March.
Pigliacampi had grown to love her teammates and coaches like family, and, like a family that had just gotten evicted, the entire swimming team were left out in the cold.
“I was just numb,” Pigliacampi said. “I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t register for me for until we were 30 minutes into the meeting; I had to ask my captains to confirm what was happening.”
"These events in the last couple of months have really made me understand that life can really change in an instant."
Within 48 hours after the program had been shut down, several other major Division I programs began seeking out the former Sandcrab. But, as it was late into the school year, Pigliacampi tried to stay grounded with her studies, though she often had to visit her coaches’ and guidance counselor’s offices trying to figure out her next step.
Before committing to another school, she needed to know which classes would transfer, how many credits she would receive, if she was still on pace to set her goals or if she suffered a major setback. Once Pigliacampi found out she could graduate with her undergraduate degree in August, it only caused more meetings with her advisors and coaches.
“These events in the last couple of months have really made me understand that life can really change in an instant,” Pigliacampi said.
After narrowing down her list and taking several campus visits, Pigliacampi had changed in an instant again, this time from a nightmare to a dream, when she committed to Arkansas.
“I loved the atmosphere, the academic support, the team and the idea of swimming in the Southeastern Conference (SEC),” Pigliacampi said. “That has always been a dream of mine. It just seems so surreal.”
Because her mom and dad attended the University of Florida, Pigliacampi has always cheered for the SEC and has always wanted to take part in its environment.
“The SEC is also one of the top swimming conferences in the nation,” Pigliacampi added. “I want to prove to myself that I deserve to be there and can help a team excel at the highest level." The SEC currently has three teams ranked in the Top 3.
This past season with UND, Pigliacampi improved her PR times in all of her events. She also set the NCAA B and school record in the 100-yard fly and was less than a second away from the NCAA B record in the 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard butterfly. Pigliacampi swam on the 400- and 800-yard freestyle relays, and she anchored the 400-yard medley relay. Her teams won and set school records in each of those events.
“Last season was a great stepping stone for what I want to accomplish in the future,” she said.