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Bruins in Paris

Senior signoff: Katrina Sommer outlines her journey with UCLA swim and dive and her drive to adapt

Senior Katrina Sommer stretches before beginning her event. Sommer was a member of the UCLA swim and dive leadership committee and competed in every dual meet in her final year in Westwood. (Alice Yang/Daily Bruin)

By Katrina Sommer

June 11, 2023 8:20 p.m.

As John Wooden would have said, “It’s the journey, not the inn.”

Every day, I had a morning ritual. 5 a.m. wake-up, instant coffee, a granola bar and Duolingo. Every day I would go to practice listening to Taylor Swift. And every day, I saw how hard my teammates worked. Swimming beneath pitch-black skies, red-faced and lost in how many yards we had done, I am left reflecting on the magic of a “You got it, Bru” in tying us together and giving us the strength to finish hard practices. Looking back on my experience, winning swim meets or dropping times didn’t tell me more about myself, it was those practices that symbolize the journey for me.

I don’t need to tell anyone that being a student-athlete is hard. Half of the time, you’re in a haze because you’re hungry, the other half of the time it’s lack of sleep. And most of the time, you can’t fully appreciate how hard you’ve worked to get to where you’re at.

The most impactful advice I was given as a freshman was to compartmentalize my day. That way, everything you’re doing doesn’t become overwhelming. It works. To me, that meant getting super involved in – admittedly – too many things. After transferring to UCLA during my sophomore year, I just felt so honored to be given a second chance at being a student-athlete. However, I also experienced the same hardships as any other student-athlete. Anxiety, injury, guilt, disordered eating, the whole nine yards, I felt. I had a hard first season at UCLA after transferring in during COVID. Nevertheless, during the hardest parts of my swimming career, Wooden’s wisdom guided me forward.

As my teammates know by now, I am a huge fan. The pyramid of success changed my life and relationship with my sport and team. Seeing my success as a swimmer as part of my team’s success, I wanted to see my hard work reflected in their achievements because it took the pressure off of me. I also knew my time at UCLA would eventually end. I wanted to end it having left an impact on my teammates and the UCLA athletic community. I wanted to serve the people and ideas which allowed me to grow. It’s really the people who make UCLA special.

If anyone has ever been in the Sunset Canyon Recreation Pool, the current pushes us (college swimmers) around sometimes. That uncontrollable and spontaneous force embodies my experience. To me, the current also reflects the invisible force I felt that brought me to UCLA. Time after time, it feels like the universe is confirming my decision to transfer. From my involvement in the female athlete empowerment club (Female Athletes Stand Together), and the student-athlete council (Bruin Athletic Council), I befriended world-class athletes. Working alongside UCLA Athletics staff for the Big Ten transition allowed me the opportunity to form something that will hopefully outlive my time as a student-athlete. Finally, connecting to other bruins – including a half-brother who attends UCLA with me (found via 23andMe) – and experiencing the culture and community of LA, being a student-athlete at UCLA set the current of my future.

Looking toward the future, I, with a lot of other student-athletes, fear the uncertainty. But during our time as student-athletes, all we have done is live with uncertainty. We did not know if or when we would get injured, or if we would play as much as we wanted. We did not know that COVID was going to happen and how that would isolate us. And we did not know how much this experience would challenge and change us. In this uncertainty, we have found who we are. So, as life continues to be uncertain, we will continue to adapt and grow.

Thank you to my parents, my teammates, all the UCLA coaches and UCLA Athletics, my professors and the UCLA community. Thank you to the alumni who taught me so much and created this legacy of excellence. When I committed to playing a sport in college, I did not realize the true impact that decision would have on my life. I am eternally grateful to have been a part of something as special as UCLA.

“Success is never final, failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts,” – John Wooden

Katrina Sommer, W. Swim & Dive 2020-2023.

Sommer competed for UCLA swim and dive from 2020-2023 after transferring from Indiana.

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