Rich Hidy, Sports Editor

Super senior swimmer Kelly Ryan on her role as a leader and life after Notre Dame

Senior swimmer Kelly Ryan returns to the Irish this season primed to add to an impressive résumé at the NCAA level.

Ryan performed her best on the biggest stage at last year’s NCAA Championships, where she swam a Notre Dame school record of 1:53.57 in the 200 backstroke. Ryan swims both the backstroke and freestyle, and has been a key contributor to the Irish roster since she won Big East Titles in the 400 medley and both the 100 and 200 freestyle her freshman season. Most recently, Ryan won the 200 yard backstroke in the Irish’s victory over No. 24 Wisconsin on Saturday, touching the wall with a time of 28.43.

Ryan came to Notre Dame after attending Fenwick High School in Illinois, and is a student in the College of Arts and Letters, majoring in pre-professional studies and Spanish. She has been named to the Dean’s List twice and was a member of the Big East All-Academic team in 2012-2013. The Roverhad the opportunity to talk to Ryan about her distinguished career as one of the leaders and top performers in the pool.

Irish Rover:How much do you think swimming will be a part of your life after graduation?

Kelly Ryan:I will always be a swimmer at heart. I’m definitely going to keep up with the results of the team. I’m going to miss swimming and the team so much that I feel like I will always be connected.

Why did you choose to participate in swimming as a sport and why did you choose to swim at ND?

Ryan:I actually started swimming because I wanted to spend more time with my best friend who had just started swimming. We swam for a few years together before she quit, but I was already hooked. Swimming has been a huge part of my life ever since. I chose ND because I fell in love with the school when I came here. The atmosphere and spirit were unbeatable compared to other schools I was looking at. I felt like I really fit in with the swim team and the academic life here as well.

What are some of your favorite aspects of attending school at Notre Dame?

Ryan:My favorite aspect of this school is how we are like a family. I also love the spiritual aspect and the opportunity to grow as a well-rounded person while going to school here.

How did you end up choosing your major?

Ryan:I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica when I was in high school, and the demand for translators was so high that the doctors had me working in the triage unit to translate for them. I absolutely loved interacting with the people there and helping them get the aid they needed from the doctors. That trip was when I decided I wanted to be a doctor and continue studying Spanish.

What do you think is your greatest accomplishment here, either in the pool or out?

Ryan:My sophomore year, I was the last person to be invited to the NCAA meet in the 200 backstroke. No one expected anything from me at that meet, myself included. I ended up dropping two seconds and becoming an All-American when I got 7th in the event. I think that was my greatest accomplishment and definitely one of my favorite swims of my swimming career.

How much have you taken a leadership role this year?

Ryan:As a senior class, I think we have all stepped up into leadership roles a lot this year. We are working very hard to create a hard-working and fun team culture that will last even after we graduate. We also have great captains this year with Allison Casareto, Bridget Casey and Emma Reaney. They have been doing an awesome job with everything so far.

What are you going to miss about Notre Dame next year?

Ryan:I think I will miss my friends the most. I have made so many lifelong friends here on the team and in my dorm and classes. It’s going to be very hard to leave the constant support system that I have here.

How much do the school records and NCAA appearances you’ve earned mean to you?

Ryan:My records and NCAA appearances have meant so much to me because they represent the growth of the program. Every year I have watched more and more people come with me to NCAAs, specifically Kim Holden, who was the previous record holder in the 200 backstroke and my training partner here at Notre Dame for three years. Watching her take the record from 1:57 to 1:55 was so inspiring to me, and I always looked up to her while we trained together. Breaking her record was something that I could not have done without her help, so that also shows how far our team has come.

What are your plans after you graduate?

Ryan: I hope to go to med school, but I am taking a year off before I do that! I’m searching for something to do next year where I can prepare for med school by staying involved with medicine, and also work on my Spanish.

Rich Hidy is a sophomore Business major and journalism minor who can be contacted at Please ignore his predictions for the football team’s record in the first edition of this year’s Rover. His prediction of 10-2 was meant for next season. Go Irish!