A few days after returning to campus from Birmingham, Ala., site of this year’s NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships, Amanda Thomas stood in front of a display in the lobby of Moore Fieldhouse. The array of quotes, images and stories recognizes the historical achievements of the Southern Athletic Department, its coaches and student-athletes.
The setting was fitting, given that the Oakville native had recently completed a storied 4-year swimming career that leaves her as one of the most decorated student-athletes in school history. Among her accomplishments are 18 All-America titles and four individual NCAA crowns. In addition, she was just selected for the second consecutive year as the Division II National Swimmer of the Year.
“Coming into college, I never thought that I would get half as many awards as I have gotten,” Thomas says. “I (accomplished) what I wanted, so I’m happy. But it’s sad that it’s over. I’m going to try to find other things to do to compete.”
Tim Quill, coach of the women’s swimming and diving team, notes that the hard work of Thomas during her collegiate career played an integral role in her success.
“It was a phenomenal career,” he says. “If you think back to where she started as a freshman, she obviously came in with a lot of talent. But talent only takes you so far. Many student-athletes have a tendency not to want to make the sacrifice that is needed to take it to the next level. But Amanda certainly made that sacrifice with hard work, dedication and commitment. It’s good to see the work pay off.”
And while collegiate sports teams often point to a family atmosphere, in Amanda’s case it was also literally the case. Her twin sister, Ashley, competed for three years on the squad and capped her own career by qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the 3-meter diving event.
In addition to her title in the 200-yard individual medley, Amanda finished as the runner-up in the 200-yard butterfly, third in the 400-yard individual medley and sixth in the 200-yard backstroke.
“I don’t think you see that very often – a situation where twins or sisters are competing in the same championship on the collegiate level. I think that’s pretty special.”
“I think that overall I did pretty well (in the NCAA Championships),” Amanda Thomas says. “I was happy with all of the outcomes. There were a few things that I wanted to do that I didn’t do, but I can’t complain. I tried my hardest. I did my best and I’m happy with it.”
Thomas was named Division II National Swimmer of the Year last year after placing among the top three finishers in four events, including a pair of individual victories. Her efforts this year earned her a repeat selection as voted on by the coaches.
“It (the award) means a lot to me, says Thomas, noting that it was the coaches who chose her. “I didn’t think that I was going to get it, so it was a shock to me…It meant a lot, especially in my senior year.”
The short-term future for Thomas includes completion of her classes towards a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. Athletically, triathlons could be a new outlet to fuel her competitive fire. A career in coaching could wind up as part of her long-term plans.