"That was probably one of the coolest moments of my life," senior swimming and diving co-captain Lizzy Whitbeck said. "I couldn’t stop smiling because we worked so hard to get that. That was our goal all of last year was to win Lee Spencer. We had our eye on it. It’s awesome to see something finally pay off. I was just grinning from ear to ear the entire time, I was so excited."
The Lee Spencer Cup is presented annually to the Arkansas athletics team that demonstrates commitment, character, and integrity and earns the most points for the commitment areas which reflect the way Lee Spencer lived his life. These areas include academic excellence, athletics excellence, leadership and personal development, service learning, team spirit and Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
Arkansas swimming and diving accomplished feats in each area of criteria to achieve this honor.
"The key to us winning was organization by a few of the upperclassmen, and just letting the rest of the team know how important things were to go to like going to volleyball games or track meets, events that aren’t as well-publicized," Whitbeck said. "Also, we really pushed going to the personal and career development program. I think once people started going and we told them they were important, they realized that it really does help them."
Members of the team enjoyed being able to support their fellow student-athletes throughout the season.
"It’s kind of nice to support your fellow student-athletes because I know when they come to our swim meets, I look in the stands and I notice them," Whitbeck said. "You cheer for them because you know them personally. It’s kind of cool to see your peers actually do their thing."
Community service projects were at the forefront of the team’s efforts.
"I think one of our favorite ones last year was organized by (teammate) Tera Bradham," Whitbeck said. "We did Miracle League. It’s where we go and play and assist with disabled kids when they play a tee-ball game. I think that was probably our team’s favorite."
Senior Molly Milborn also described service learning events.
"While the girls were at SECs, the rest of us went to one called ‘Feed My Starving Children’ that I know we all really enjoyed," Milborn said. "We made enough meals for about 200-plus kids to have for a year. I know the Tyson Chicken one is always a favorite, where we group together with all of the student-athletes and deliver boxes of Tyson chicken to different food banks or shelters. Relay For Life is another good one that we do. Our team gets really into it and does all of the activities."
Senior co-captain Aubrey Golbek also recalled community service events.
"They have us go to the local elementary schools for Sweat Hawgs and for Book Hawgs," Golbek said. "We went and talked to them about like nutrition and general health stuff, which was fun. For Book Hawgs, you can go and read to the kids. If they read enough then they’ll get to win a lunch with a Razorback athlete. That was fun. I went to one where we called out the names in a big assembly."
The team’s academic accomplishments during the past season were of national scope and merit. The Razorbacks were named a CSCAA 2013 Scholar All-America Team for earning a team GPA above 3.5. They had the ninth-highest GPA in Division I women’s swimming and diving and were the only team with a top-10 GPA to also score at the NCAA Championships.
"One thing I like about swimming, and our team especially, is that we still place such an emphasis on academics," Golbek said. "Our team GPA has been top every year that I’ve been here. We really push that along with all the other stuff that we did."
Whitbeck and Milborn served as SAAC representatives during last season.
"I think we owe a lot to these two girls and the representatives last year, which included Courtney Hubbard," Golbek said. "They just do so much like telling the team about what activities are going on, and they really spearhead the whole thing. It’s a lot of hard work."
The award continues to have a positive impact on the team as they embark on the 2013-14 season, aiming to capitalize on last season’s successes.
"I think it really gets our name out on campus because a lot of people don’t really know when swim meets are, or some people don’t even know we have a swim team," Milborn said. "It also creates a good bond for our team because we get to do all of these activities together that make us better people and let us serve others, as well as grow closer into a more cohesive group. I think that’s really beneficial for our team, and in the long-run I think it helps us do better in and out of the pool."
"Lee Spencer was all about balance and being a well-rounded person, and I think that’s what our team is trying to achieve," Whitbeck said. "It’s not easy being a student-athlete, so it definitely takes some focus and leadership. I feel like last year we did a really good job of being not only successful in the pool, but growing as human beings. Once we graduate swimming is over, and we need to be good people going into the world."
Last season the Razorbacks went 10-1 in dual meets and finished 26th at the NCAA Championships, the program’s best finish since 1990. The team broke 11 different school records a total of 19 times, even breaking two 23-year-old records.&
The Razorback swimming and diving team heads to Southlake, Texas, on Friday to participate in the North Texas Relay Invitational at 5:30 p.m. and open its regular season. The team will follow the North Texas Relay Invite with a dual meet at North Texas in Denton, Texas, on Saturday at 11 a.m.