Personal #STATEment Alexia Zevnik

My four years as a member of the NC State swim and dive team have been nothing but a blessing. I have seen many people come and go through this program and one thing is always certain when they leave: once a part of the Wolfpack family, always a part of the Wolfpack family.

People always ask what it was about NC State that made me decide to move so far away from my home in Canada to study abroad for four years. The answer is simple: the people.

From the moment I stepped on NC State's campus five years ago for my recruiting trip, I knew that Raleigh was a place I could easily call home. I was instantly surrounded with this feeling of family, not just from the team but also the coaching staff.
Swim and dive teams can grow large in numbers, ours is no exception. But despite the fact there are 60 men and women, outsiders are often in shock at how well our team functions as one unit.

Our family is the backbone and foundation to not only my own personal success, but the success of this team as a whole. I have been blessed throughout my time as a student-athlete at NC State to have been given the opportunity to work alongside some amazing people in order to learn from them and build lifelong friendships.

It is no secret that my fours years here have not been all sunshine and rainbows. No athlete’s story ever is, and that is the beauty of sports. My junior year was especially challenging. I was off to a pretty promising start as an upperclassman but was quickly thrown some curveballs.

In the middle of first semester final exams, I managed to sprain my ankle during a dry land workout. It never ceases to amaze me how incredibly uncoordinated I am, a true fish out of water. Fortunately, the injury didn't keep me out of the water completely. As long as my ankle was taped, I could continue to practice. But because it was too painful to kick using my legs, I had to pull myself through the water using just my arms.

I was determined to not let an injury set me back. The team was incredibly encouraging about my situation and the coaches found innovative ways to get me through practice. I only had to get through one week of training and then I would be on a plane home to see my family for the first time in months.

My sister made the trip home to Montreal the same night I did. My mom made dinner for us, and just like we hadn't spent four months apart, my family was back together again laughing around the dinner table.

After we ate, my mom shared something I didn't expect to hear: she had been diagnosed with cancer. The same cancer, the doctor explained two days later, that almost killed her 18 years prior. I wanted so desperately to stay in Montreal and be with my mom, but she wouldn't let me stay and worry about her. So just a few days after learning she was sick, I was on a plane back to Raleigh for Christmas training camp part two.

For anyone who has ever swam competitively, you know how hard Christmas training camps can be. Imagine being incredibly distracted and adding an extreme feeling of isolation and homesickness. A time that is already physically and emotionally draining for swimmers quickly became dreadful.

But as news spread about what I was going through, teammates began to step out and share their own stories. With the support from my swim team family, I suddenly went from feeling isolated and miserable to realizing how strong my mom is and that I, although a thousand miles from home, would always be with family.

My teammates got me fired up to finish the season the way I had started it, but for the first time in my collegiate career, when I looked up in the stands during ACC Championships and NCAA Championships, I knew I wouldn't see my mom's face in the crowd. I'd be lying if I said that wasn't hard, but fortunately my dad and my grandmother were there.

The championship season finished off above and beyond what I ever could have imagined.

My senior year was even better and it was all because of the people I have met along the way that have helped and pushed me.

If someone would have told me four years ago that by the time I graduated I would be part of an ACC champion team or finish as runner up in an individual event at NCAAs, I would have laughed.

There is a reason this is written all around campus: "For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack." After four years at NC State, I can honestly say it sums up our team, our coaches and our university as a whole.

It sounds cliche, but once a part of the Wolfpack, always a part of the Wolfpack.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.