University of Idaho senior swimmer Staci Stratton did not know if she could compete at the Division 1 level before entering college.
She did know she could be a leader.
“People who swim and can put their head down and look at a black line all day are usually people who can be persistent and get things done on time,” Stratton said. “So swimming has kind of taught me to be a leader in general all throughout my life.”
Stratton, who was an all-state swimmer at Sequim High School in Washington, participated in the Western Athletic Conference Championships Feb. 23-26 in San Antonio, Texas. She placed 10th in the 50-meter freestyle, 11th in the 100-meter backstroke, 11th in the 100-meter freestyle and helped the Vandals place fourth in the 200-meter freestyle relay.
Stratton entered the competition as Idaho’s record-holder in the 50-meter freestyle race and a member of the school record-holding 200-medley, 400-medley, 200-freestyle and 400-freestyle relay teams.
Stratton sharpens her leadership skills outside of swimming as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council. Stratton said the council is made up of athletes from every team who meet together to discuss the issues and problems athletes face on campus.
She said the council helps bring athletes closer to students who are not involved with sports and closer to the community.
“We work really hard on making the athlete look much better in the eyes of professors and the community,” Stratton said.
She said the experience benefited her as a swimmer and a student.
“I started SAAC as a freshman and I was just a representative and throughout my college swimming it kind of helped me realize how to manage my time better and it helped me realize I could be even more of a leader outside of swimming,” Stratton said.
Stratton said her journey as a Vandal began after meeting with head coach Tom Jager. She said Jager saw potential in her when she had doubts about competing at the next level.
“I never thought I could ever be a swimmer in college but the fact that he took one look at me and I definitely could tell he believed in me more than any of the other coaches I’d seen because I wasn’t necessarily that fast coming in to college,” Stratton said.
Stratton said her accomplishments at Idaho have exceeded her expectations.
“When I entered the university I didn’t think I could even be a D1 swimmer or even be a representative of a committee like the Student Athlete Advisory Council,” Stratton said. “Through Tom’s leadership and this team and seeing the leaders that have gone through the program before me, it’s taught me so much and I’m going to do so much more after because of swimming.”
Looking back at her swimming career, Stratton said her fondest memories include beating Boise State her freshman and sophomore years and defeating Nevada on the road this season.
“It was a blast just to share that moment and realize that we were all on the same page swimming fast together,” Stratton said.
She said her message to the underclassmen on the team has been to trust themselves and not to worry about the expectations of others.
“Just focus on yourself and do swimming for yourself or it won’t be any fun if you’re doing it for other people,” Stratton said.
Stratton, an exercise science and health major, said she wants to be a strength and conditioning coach after college so she can work with athletes from many different sports.
“I just want to be a coach for hardworking athletes,” Stratton said. “That’s my goal.”