Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

RP Women’s Athlete of the Year: D-I transfer finds balance at UW-W

Dan Pomykalski
Amy Spaay


By Zach Hicks

Perched atop the starting block at the NCAA Division III Championships in Shenandoah, Texas on Friday, March 22, sophomore Amy Spaay stared at her reflection in the pool.

Suddenly, she forgot about her competition. It was time to win. It was time to make history.

“Whenever I race, I can’t really think about all of the other swimmers in the pool,” Spaay said. “I have to think about what I’m doing.”

Spaay won the 100-yard breaststroke that day, with a time of 1:00.85, the fastest in the history of the meet. Spaay followed that with a championship in the 200-yard breaststroke the next day, with a time of 2:14.71.

That time broke her own school record that she had set in the WIAC Championship meet the month before.
Spaay is only the second swimmer in WIAC history to win two national championships in the same season.

Although a junior academically, she recently decided that she would swim the next two years.
Spaay didn’t start her story as a Warhawk but instead as a Wildcat.

She once was swimming outside for practice, under the hot sun in Tucson, Ariz., at the University of Arizona.

After swimming her freshman year, Spaay was told that she had to choose between swimming and her theater major.

Not wanting to sacrifice her dreams for after college, Spaay chose school over swimming and quit the team.

But something was missing. Spaay yearned to swim again while also pursuing her theater major, and UW-Whitewater provided an opportunity to do so.

Head coach Joel Rollings, WIAC Coach of the Year, said although Arizona is a top-five program, they couldn’t offer Spaay the academic flexibility that UW-W could.

“She got to train with some of the greatest people in the world, but as far as academics go, they weren’t able to help her out much,” Rollings said. “Here at Whitewater, we were able to help her out with both.”

Now in the pool of a D-III program, Spaay uses determination learned from her club coach when preparing mentally for a race.

After a club meet during her junior year of high school, Spaay had missed the podium by .01 seconds. She vowed to never let that happen again.

“A lot of times, when it’s tough and I don’t want to do it, I just tell myself ‘podium.  Just think of yourself up there and know the work that needs to be put in to achieve that goal,’” she said.

Rollings said that in the next two years, Spaay could cement herself as one of the best D-III swimmers of all-time and post times that would qualify her for the D-I National Championship Meet if she were still swimming for a D-I school.

While Rollings went on to say that he looks to recruit D-I-caliber swimmers to UW-W, he admitted athletes such as Spaay are a rarity.

“To be honest, Amy is a little bit above the prototype,” said Rollings when asked if Spaay is the prototype for recruiting swimmers to UW-W. “When she came in here, she had some really good swims. She dropped a lot of times to where she’s at now. We have kids drop two seconds in a race no problem, but as you get to that elite status, and she is an elite level athlete, that big of a drop is pretty rare.”

Spaay dropped almost two seconds from personal bests, leaving Rollings to avoid projecting what her limits are. He did say that whatever legacy Spaay will leave after the next two seasons is up to her.

There are many phenomenal women athletes on campus, but Spaay’s dominance from the time she arrived on campus and her extraordinary potential are why she garnered the most votes by the Royal Purple’s sports section.

Comfortable in her classes at the Greenhill Center of the Arts and dominating in her lane at the Williams Center Pool, Amy Spaay’s record-breaking season will stand in history for years, according to Rollings.

Unless, of course, she breaks the same records next season.

“It was kind of indescribable,” said Spaay on her two national championships. “I never thought I would be at this level, but now I am, and it’s just really cool.”

It is cool, alright. And she is just getting started.

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Founded 1901
RP Women’s Athlete of the Year: D-I transfer finds balance at UW-W