Caroline Gmelich (Rumson, N.J.) won the 2020 ACC title in the 200-yard medley relay and was the conference runner-up in the 100-yard backstroke. In this edition of Hoos Life, the UVA fourth-year discusses winning an ACC title and her goals for the season as well as her plans for after graduation.
Q: When did you start swimming and how did you get involved in the sport?
Gmelich: I started swimming when I was about five-years-old. My mom swam in college at Dartmouth and my older cousins were on a local club team.
Q: What is your goal for both yourself and the team this season?
Gmelich: My goals for the season are definitely to win a national title if all goes well and we are able to compete at NCAAs. I also want to win ACCs again after our win last year. As a fourth year, I think I am able to see how much our team is committed to each other and I think that commitment will allow us to be successful no matter what the season looks like.
Q: You won your second ACC team title last year and captured an individual title with the 200-yard medley relay. What was that experience like to not only win the team title but contribute and win your first individual title?
Gmelich: Last year was really exciting for me, especially because I didn’t compete on the ACC team my first year, so last year, I really got the full experience with the team throughout the week (at ACC Championships). To be able to win a relay with some of my closest friends was also incredible, especially knowing how hard our team and that relay had worked the entire year.
Q: In addition to your transition from high school to college, Virginia had just announced Todd DeSorbo as the team’s head coach. Do you remember what was going through your mind during those first few weeks? What it was like to not only be a first-year, but have the team going through a transition as well?
Gmelich: I do remember being told that Todd was our new coach. To be honest, I was just happy that we actually had a coach after the old coaches left so abruptly. The transition was definitely really hard for everyone on the team. Although it was a big change, I think our results speak for themselves in terms of our ability to adapt to the circumstances.
Q: If given the opportunity, is there any advice you would give to your younger self?
Gmelich: I would definitely tell myself to not take swimming too seriously and just have the best time you can. My first year I had a really hard time with being anxious about practices and not performing well enough. When I started to not care about those things as much and just have a good time, I started to see results.
Q: What has been your favorite moment with the team, either in or out of the water, over the last three-and-a-half years?
Gmelich: I have a ton of favorite memories. This past Tennessee Invite I really enjoyed watching our men’s team win the 400 freestyle relay. Our entire team was going absolutely insane as the men had to win the relay to win the meet. When they touched the wall first, I’ve never felt such energy. I think our excitement for others’ successes really speaks to our team’s love and support for each other both in and out of the pool.
Q: What are you majoring in and what are your plans for after graduation?
Gmelich: I am majoring in biology. I plan to take a gap year and do clinical research and then eventually attend medical school.
Q: You started working with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York over the summer. Were you in New York working with them and what were you doing as a research assistant?
Gmelich: I actually was doing research with an oncologist, Dr. Behfar Ehdaie, who fortunately gave me the opportunity to do virtual research throughout the summer. I also was fortunate enough to work at my job as a lifeguard in Sea Girt, N.J.
Q: You are also a member of the One Love Committee at UVA. What is your role and what is your focus in your position?
Gmelich: I am the athletic outreach chair. So, my job is basically to reach out to club and varsity sports around Grounds and offer them educational workshops that One Love provides. Our main focus for the club is to educate as many students and faculty on Grounds about the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Q: Do you have any advice for current first-years on the team or anyone who is looking to swim in college?
Gmelich: Something I would say to the first years is to have as much fun as they can as the four years truly fly by. For anyone that wants to swim in college, I would say to continue to work hard, write down and talk about your goals and also just have fun with the sport. Swimming gets really hard in college and you definitely need to be able to think back to why you started and have goals that drive you throughout the season.
Q: What are your plans for winter break?
Gmelich: Winter break will consist of training camp and a few dual meets which I am really excited for. We also are fortunate enough to go home from the 19th to the 28th of December.