Lapping the competition

Olympic swimming.

Every four years, this oft-forgotten sport gets a boost thanks to the Summer Olympic Games, when men and women from around the world make diving, swimming and aquatic dancing as big as any athletic event in the world.

But for some, swimming isn’t just something that comes around every four years.

Just ask two-time Marshall graduate Sarah Kay.

Sarah was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa where she took up swimming as a child. Within a few years, Sarah was competing with the best South Africa had to offer, eventually being selected to the South African National Team for the summer of 2010. After a successful aquatic career in her home country, Sarah was recruited to swim for Marshall University where she raced to 47 individual wins and dozens of national achievements, both athletically and academically, from 2010 to 2014.

After graduating from Marshall, first in 2013 with an International Business Degree, and again in 2015 with an MBA, Sarah remained in Huntington, giving back to her alma mater as Director of Philanthropy for the Marshall University Foundation.

What was it like coming from South Africa to Huntington, West Virginia? What drew her to swimming? What was it like competing both internationally and collegiately? We will let Sarah tell you in this edition of Alumni Spotlight.

HERD HEAVEN: First things first, what is your first memory of swimming?

SARAH KAY: I’ve been swimming since I can remember. One of my favorite swimming memories is doing the Robben Island Freedom Swim, which is swimming from the island Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, to the shore, with my dad.

HH: What drew you to the sport?

SK: I don’t know. I have always enjoyed swimming. My dad was always a good swimmer, so that helped.

HH: What were some of your specialties in the pool event wise?

SK: The 200 butterfly was my best. I also swam the 100 fly, 200 and 400 individual medleys.

HH: While in South Africa, you were part of the national team, what was your favorite part of that?

SK: Simply being a part of the team was a treat. I absolutely loved it. I loved competing.

HH: Swimming brought you to Marshall, what were some of the challenges you faced in adjusting to the area?

SK: I am from Cape Town, South Africa where I lived all my life until coming to the U.S. to study. My family is actually still in South Africa. I was recruited to swim and study at Marshall and began my freshman year in August of 2010. Once I was here, it was a fairly easy adjustment. When I arrived on campus, I was immersed in a team environment. The Huntington community was and is extremely welcoming and friendly. Eventually, I accelerated my course load and graduated with my undergrad with an International Business degree in 2013. I followed that up with my MBA in 2015, all while swimming.

HH: Obviously balancing academics and athletics is not easy, but you excelled with multiple academic awards. How did you balance the two?

SK: It wasn’t too difficult. The professors at Marshall were good about laying out course and student expectations at the beginning of the semester. I was also aware of the swimming schedule. So seeing the expectations for both in advance made things easier to manage. Time management is key for any student-athlete.

HH: While you were here at Marshall, were there any professors that stood out to you?

SK: Ivan Muslin. He has been extremely helpful to me, even after graduation.

HH: Do you have a favorite memory from your college years here in Huntington?

SK: I’ve had too many incredible memories to simply highlight one. I will say that the friendships I’ve made throughout my time at Marshall and living in Huntington have made for many years of special memories. I’ve met the most amazing people. I have wonderful memories from being a part of MUSD, being a student, to now working in the community.

HH: Since graduating from Marshall, you have continued giving back to your alma mater by taking a position at the Marshall University Foundation. What do you enjoy most about working with students, faculty and alums of the university?

SK: The people I work with, work for and the university and community I get to be a part of are the best part. The Foundation is a special place. I have met people from all walks of life who have achieved such success. I am extremely thankful and grateful to be a member of the MU Foundation. I like the idea that this is my way of giving back to the community and university that gave me my education and most of my adult life experiences.

HH: So after all these years, do you still enjoy time in the pool.

SK. Yes I do. In fact, I recently just started swimming again.


HH: Favorite Food?
SK: I like all kinds of food

HH: Favorite Music?
SK: Pop

HH: First Comic Movie?
SK: Bridesmaids

HH: First Car?
SK: Toyota

HH: Favorite Non-Swimming Olympic Event?
SK: Track and Field