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Swimmer turned coach on deck at Pacific Lutheran
These days Kentwood graduate and swimming standout Courtney Eronemo can be found coaching on the pool deck or in class at Pacific Lutheran University where she is the assistant swim coach and is studying for her second degree.
Eronemo competed at the 2004 U.S. Swimming Olympic trials when she was 16 and graduated from Kentwood in 2006 after winning six swimming state titles in six different events. She then attended the University of California at Berkley where she studied biology and nutrition and swam for the Bears. Her main events were the individual medley and butterfly. She also competed at the 2008 Olympic trials.
“When I went on my recruiting trips it was just the place I felt completely at home,” Eronemo said of how she decided on Berkeley. “The coach wasn’t trying to sell anything and she really believed in making the swimmer better people, not just faster swimmers. I saw a lot of growth opportunity.”
In all the experiences she had at Berkley, Eronemo said, the best part was the day-to-day life of school and training.
“My favorite moment is just the daily experience,” Eronemo said. “Just the waking up early every morning and walking to practice and 20 girls jumping in the pool and training our butts off.”
Eronemo gravitated toward studying science because it intrigued her more than English or history courses.
“I knew I loved health and I loved science, that was the kind of the brain I had,” Eronemo said. “I wanted to be involved in health and fitness but on a more scientific level, so nursing was the ultimate goal.”
After finishing her career in the pool and graduating from Berkeley, Eronemo returned home to Washington while she worked on hammering out the details of what she wanted to do next.
“I didn’t know what exactly I wanted to do and I knew I had a home and parents who were willing to support me until I figured out what I wanted to do,” Eronemo said.
The answer to that question came in pursuing a second bachelors degree, this time specifically in nursing at PLU. Right now she’s a year and a half in with a year and a half to go.
“I’ve always loved kids so pediatrics is probably the most appealing to me, but every rotation I’ve done so far I’ve loved and could see myself doing,” Eronemo said of what area of nursing she’d like to pursue.
Eronemo got into coaching at her dad’s suggestion after she knew she would be attending PLU.
“I applied to PLU for school and I just got in right away and I was at a family dinner at my house and my dad was like, ‘I think they have a swim team, you should look up if they need any help.’,” she said. “So I just Google searched PLU swimming and emailed the coach and by the next week I was on the coaching staff.”
This fall will be Eronemo’s third season coaching for the Lutes.
“This year at conference we had a phenomenal (meet),” Eronemo said. “Our men and our womens team, anyone who was walking on deck with PLU, was telling everyone how great they did.”
The best part of coaching for Eronemo is seeing the pride and excitement the swimmers have when they achieve their goals.
“I love, love, watching their faces when they touch the wall,” Eronemo said. “I don’t even look up at the scoreboard. I love to watch their faces and just, like, they can’t even believe what they did. That is the most memorable thing, their expressions.”
While Eronemo loves what she’s doing and the chance to give back to the sport that has been such a big part of her life and has meant so much to her, she sees graduation from PLU and pursuing a nursing career as what will likely be her exit from the sport.
“I think when I swam in high school and college I got so much from swimming and so coaching is giving me an opportunity to give that back,” Eronemo said. “I love that right now I’m able to help the swimmers that I coach find the love of swimming that I have found but I think that’s the end of the road. I’m giving back right now and then I’m ready to move on. I want a family and a nursing career.”
One of the biggest lessons Eronemo learned from her years involved in swimming is the value of relationships and doing what you love.
“I love swimming and the people that I’ve met through swimming are people that I’ll have in my life forever,” Eronemo said. “And then also that if you love something and put everything into it that you have you can get whatever you want (out of it). There are so many opportunities within something like that. I’m putting that into nursing now. I love what I’m doing and that passion and compassion I have for patients I can tell, it’s the same emotions I had in swimming.”