FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas swimmer Nikki Danielsearned All-America honors at the 2013 NCAA Championships as a sophomore. Daniels placed fourth in the finals of the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 59.18. Her time in the finals was just short of her personal best time, 59.11, in the preliminary round. Daniels became the first Razorback to All-American in the 100 breaststroke and the 35th All-American in Arkansas program history.
Read on as Daniels describes last season, the team, and her outlook for 2013-14.
Q: Describe your experience at the NCAA Championships last season.
A: NCAAs was so much fun. Arkansas brought seven girls, so there was always a lot of energy and positivity when we were preparing for Championships. Any big meet like that comes with a lot of pressure, but we tried to enjoy the experience more than just focus on racing, which really helped with the nerves.
Q: What did it take to become an All-American?
A: This year was kind of a learning year, adjusting to Coach Schimmel’s coaching style and finally figuring out how to balance classes and swimming, so it really just required a lot of trust in the program and the other swimmers and divers. Our coaches and trainer helped emphasize the importance of warming up properly and recovering, which meant spending a lot of time at the pool before and after practices. Every time we raced in practice, the coaches made sure to remind us that the hard work now would give us the confidence we needed to go into championship season, which really helped keep a focus throughout the team. Every day we all came to training to make a difference and be better than we’d ever been before.
Q: What’s an important lesson or piece of advice Coach Schimmel gave you last season?
A: Coach Schimmel has many different sayings that we hear on a daily basis, but the one that stands out the most to me is that “we have to do the next right thing”, since we can’t control what happens three weeks from now, but we can have a phenomenal practice this morning. It helped get through some injury problems I had throughout the year, because rather than worrying that I wouldn’t be ready for championship season, we just had to worry about doing the next right thing.
Q: Describe Coach Schimmel in one word. Why that word?
A: Optimistic. College and sports can sometimes be a really difficult balancing act, but he always reminds us to appreciate the opportunity we have. Someone can have a terrible day, and he’ll always find a way.
Q: What’s something funny or unique about you that fans may not know?
A: I’m a frequent midnight snacker. I really love Disney movies, and I am terrible at keeping plants alive.
Q: What’s something funny or unique about the team that fans may not know?
A: Since we have so many people with the same name on the team, we’ve come up with some pretty hilarious and unique nicknames.
Q: What are you most excited about for 2013-14 season?
A: I’m just really excited to see where this team goes. Every year it seems like we get stronger, and I don’t see that changing this year. We’re learning to work together and trust each other, and that will hopefully impact how our championship season finishes.
Q: What would be your advice to someone hoping to All-American in their sport one day? Advice to any aspiring swimmers?
A: The sport of swimming is an extremely challenging one, just like many other sports, but none of us would keep pushing ourselves this hard if it was all work without fun. You have to commit to your sport and realize that you’ll only get this chance for a short amount of time, so try to make the most out of it and trust in your program and teammates.
See Daniels in action when the Razorbacks host the Huskers on Saturday at the Arkansas Natatorium at 11 a.m. in the only home dual meet during the fall semester. Admission is free, and the first 100 fans will receive a special breast cancer awareness t-shirt.
The swimming and diving team is coming off a 180-120 win at LSU, the team’s 12th consecutive dual meet win.
For more information on Arkansas swimming and diving, follow @RazorbackSwim on Twitter.