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Torrington's Hannah Olson concludes stellar career at Southern. Story by John Torsiello.

POSTED February 20, 2014
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney


Torrington’s Hannah Olson had an overriding goal coming into her senior season at Southern Connecticut State University; to help the Lady Owls’ swim and diving team win an 11th straight Northeast-10 Conference.

Well, the Lady Owls, short on numbers, didn’t take home the title, coming in second. But Olson put a nice cap on her career at the New Haven school nonetheless.

“We didn’t end up winning, but I know we did the best we could. We had the smallest team we have ever had with 13 swimmers and two divers that could compete, so we were outnumbered. But that didn’t stop us from trying. We still came in second, which I think is a pretty impressive accomplishment.”

Olson did reach a personal goal.

“I wanted to make it my best season yet and record best times in my races. I really just wanted to have fun and enjoy my last year as a college swimmer.”

Olson’s highlight this season came at the Metropolitan Conference Championships, where she and her teammate and fellow co-captain, Anna Pleban, finished first and second respectively in the 200-yard freestyle.

“I can’t think of anyone else that I would rather come in second behind than Anna. She is an extremely hard worker and she deserves it. That was the best race of my life and I am glad to have shared it with her. I swam my goal time in that race and I never dreamed I would place that high at the meet.”

Olson, the daughter of Jonathan and Lynn Olson, served as captain of the Torrington High School swim team her senior year. She was All-Naugatuck Valley League her junior and senior years.

As a junior at Southern, she finished third in the 200-yard butterfly, fourth in the 400-yard IM, sixth in the 200-yard IM, and ninth in the 200-yard freestyle relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships. At the Metropolitan Conference Championships, she finished fifth in the 400-yard IM and seventh in the 500-yard freestyle and the 200-yard IM.

As a sophomore, she scored in six different events for the Lady Owls at the NE-10 Championships, finishing third in the 400-IM and fourth in the 200-IM and 200-butterfly. She was also ninth with teammates in the 400-medley relay and 800-freestyle relay, and 10th with the 400-freestyle relay team. She helped capture fifth overall in the 400-yard freestyle relay at the Metro Championships, and placed14th in the 100-yard butterfly at the Metros.

Out of the pool she has been a consistent Northeast-10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll Selection.

“I think I have had a very successful swimming career and I have accomplished a lot,” said Olson. “I have learned a lot about myself throughout my years swimming, like the direction I want to go with my life, which will have something to do with nutrition and fitness. I have gone personal best times in my years at Southern and I swam faster than I ever thought possible. I’ve had ups and downs throughout my 13 years of swimming, but it’s safe to say I have enjoyed my time as a swimmer.”

She talked about her maturation as an athlete.

“I have improved so much in my time at Southern, more than I ever imagined. Before I came to Southern I was starting to doubt my abilities as a swimmer and questioned whether I’d be able to make it on a college team. The taper process had never worked for me in high school and I hadn’t gone a best time since my sophomore year, so I was very skeptical about Southern’s program benefiting me. I didn’t go into the program with the best state of mind, but thankfully I had my coaches, Tim Quill and Matt Hurst, my parents and my teammates to convince me otherwise. I became captain my senior year, which I also never thought would happen coming in as a freshman, and I also became good at events that I never did in high school, like the IM. Southern changed my whole perspective on what it takes to be a swimmer.”

Olson said there was a huge adjustment from high school to collegiate swimming.

“If I knew in high school what I know now about swimming I would have been so much faster in high school. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be good in this sport and high school students don’t always have that mind-set. I thought I was a fairly decent swimmer in high school and when I came to college that perspective changed. I learned a whole new level of hard work and how much time really needed to be dedicated to this sport.”

She continued, “I went from swimming one practice a day four times a week with a little dry land practice here and there to swimming six days a week with double practices Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and weight training on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well. That didn’t include meets. And practices were much harder and sometimes longer than my high school practices.”

Although she grew to love college athletics it wasn’t always the case.

“My entire freshman year was an adjustment. I had myself convinced that swimming wasn’t right for me anymore and I had changed my mind about swimming in college. I just wasn’t for me, so I thought, and I tried to quit four times. I was in Tim’s office more than most people that year telling him that I was wasting my time swimming at Southern. I hated waking up early when everyone else got to sleep in. I hated the long grueling practices that left me with no energy for my school work. I didn’t like my classes because they gave me too much work. I missed being home and having less responsibilities. And I really missed my friends. I was so wrong about swimming being a waste of time and I’m glad I had so many people that helped me realize that.”

Olson chose to attend Southern because she wanted to swim in college and knew the school had a good program.

“I thought because it was a state school I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life, since I came in undecided. I also picked Southern because another girl I swim with on my home club team was going there too.”

Her major has changed several times but she has finally decided on Liberal Studies so she can experiment with different things. Her concentrations are Nutrition, Wellness and English Literature.

“This is the first semester I have all nutrition/public health classes and I really like them. I love food and I got into nutrition partly because I was constantly being reminded about proper nutrition as a swimmer. At one point, I thought I wanted to be a Journalism major but I soon realized it wasn’t for me. I learned to respect that field and I took some interesting classes, but nutrition is definitely the direction I want to go in.”

Olson took swim lessons as a young child and began swimming competitively when she was nine.

“I have always loved the water so my parents thought it was the right thing for me. I wouldn’t say I was really great or anything, but I loved swimming right away. It was the first sport I did well at and believe me I tried everything. I tried soccer, basketball, dance, karate, softball, you name it. Then when I did swimming, I finally felt like I was in the right place.”

She keeps in touch with a few of her former high school teammates and gets home when she can.

“My freshman year I went home every weekend, and it has progressively gotten less every year. I used to go home more than most people on the team, but I haven’t been home in a while. I live in a house off-campus so I feel less of the need to go home every weekend. But I still like to go home every now and then to see my parents and brother.”

As for hobbies and relaxation, Olson likes to snowboard and plans on doing more of the sport now that she’s done with swimming.

“I also really like CrossFit and working out in general, so I think that will be a big stress reliever for me. The only thing I really do to relax is make a cup of tea and listen to music or watch a movie. Like, I said before I love food, and I like finding healthy alternative recipes and trying them out. My boyfriend and I like to try new restaurants when we get the chance, so I have a feeling this will become a hobby of mine too.”

It took a bit of time, but Hannah Olson found herself as a collegiate swimmer and certainly made the most of her abilities at S.C.S.U.

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