UWF’s Theresa Michalak nominated for DII Athlete of the Year

By Brooke Weber
Staff Writer

The University of West Florida’s senior swimmer Theresa Michalak was recently named a 2017 Division II Honda Athlete of the Year nominee for swimming and diving, which is yet another title she can add to her expansive resume.

Michalak is a 2012 Olympian, Southeastern Conference Champion who competed for the University of Florida in 2015, was named 2015 First Team All-SEC, a five-time National Champion, and was recently featured in Sports Illustrated.

However, Michalak said it is not competing in the Olympic games and winning national titles that is her most accomplished win; she said it is her dedication and patience.

“So many times I wanted to give up and quit everything,” Michalak said. “However, this ambition and belief that I never lost brought me to the Olympic Games, being a European champion, and a five-time national champion.”

Michalak said it’s not about what she won, or how fast she was, it’s more about how she got there that is an achievement.

However, Michalak said competing at the Olympic Games is an unforgettable memory that no one can ever take from her.

“Since I was a little swimmer, my dream was it to be an Olympic athlete,” Michalak said. “My parents were athletes who always told me that this event is the biggest accomplishment you can achieve as an athlete.”

Senior swimmer Theresa Michalak has won a program-record five national championships and holds 14 career All-America honors, which is the second-most in program history. Photo by Paulina Szydlo, courtesy of Theresa Michalak.

Michalak said hearing about the Olympics as an 8-year-old sounded so far away and not reachable.

“However, as I was 13 years old, I swam under the time that was required for the Olympic Games for the year 2008,” Michalak said. “I realized, I can reach everything I want, and in 2012, I prepared my body and mind to become the best swimmer-version of myself.”

Michalak represented Germany at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, and she placed 12th in the 200-individual medley, and she swam the third leg of Germany’s 13th place 800 freestyle relay team.

Michalak said that love brought her to UWF and Pensacola, but that her favorite part of being an Argonaut is her team.

“There was one dual meet we had in the fall of 2016, and it was the best competition I have ever had,” Michalak said. “My team was incredibly supportive, and I felt motivated like never before.

“Ever since then, I realized that we have the best team possible at this moment, and it pushed me over my limits,” Michalak said.

Senior swimmer Karisa Kostecki said Michalak is the type of athlete that makes you want to train harder and be better in and out of the water.

“She pushed our team to be the best just by training in the lane next to us,” Kostecki said. “It’s not luck that she’s a national champion and Olympic swimmer. She is one of the hardest workers and toughest racers I’ve ever seen and had the opportunity to train with.”

Kostecki said UWF swimming is very lucky to have Michalak, and that she’s an incredible athlete and person.

Michalak said Head Coach Andrew Hancock is the best coach she has ever had.

“He brought me back to being a good swimmer after a five-month break, and while doing so, he trusted me and I trusted him,” Michalak said. “This was the most important part of the journey of practice and to become a national champion.”

Michalak’s nomination was announced by Executive Director Chris Voelz of the CWSA, and Michalak is one of 11 finalists for the award. The title of the DII Honda Woman Athlete of the Year will be voted on at the end of the academic year by national balloting among 1,000 NCAA member schools as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) program.

Michalak is the first Argo to ever be nominated for this award in any sport.

“It would be incredible to achieve the honor of Athlete of the Year, and it is beyond my dreams,” Michalak said.