Maryville senior Erin Mays wasn’t just looking for a college where she could swim competitively.
She was looking for the whole package as far as what she wanted to experience as a student athlete.
“I didn’t want to sacrifice my academics for swimming,” Mays said. “All through high school, I’ve wanted to swim in college. I just wasn’t sure where yet.
“It’s a really big deal that I’ll have the opportunity to swim and that I also found the academic fit I was looking for.”
A standout in the pool and in the classroom, Mays found the perfect match in Colgate University in New York, where Mays plans to study science.
Swimming was far from Mays’ only commitment throughout high school. She was part of the Maryville Young Scholars Program, National Honor Society, Key Club as well as Spanish and Math honor societies. She also helped co-founded a local “Make a Splash” branch, which provides free swimming lessons to underprivileged children in the community.
“She’s so gifted academically — one of the best students in the whole high school,” Maryville swim coach Jenna Johnson said. “The thing that stands out in my mind about Erin is her work ethic. She works extremely hard every single time she comes to practice. She’s very focused, and she means business.”
Mays has helped Maryville place second at state for the last three straight seasons.
She got into swimming when she was six years old because her best friend joined a team. But Mays’ interest in the sport quickly evolved from being just an opportunity to socialize.
“Really quickly, I started to realize I really liked it,” Mays said. “I’ve always been a super competitive person, so I didn’t want to just go and swim and talk to my friends. I always wanted to get better and prove to my coaches that I was getting better.”
That drive has served Mays well. She competed in the 2021 state meet in Kingston and placed 20th in the 200-meter individual medley (2:14.51) and 21st in the 100 breaststroke (1:09.83).
She was also a quality teammate. Johnson said Mays offered to swim whatever event would suit the team best at the KISL (Knox-area Interscholastic Swim League) city meet in April.
Johnson said she had plenty of options.
“You can pretty much put her in any stroke,” Johnson said. “The versatility she had as a swimmer is huge for swimmers in college programs.”
As for how Mays picked a school in New York, she said Colgate’s academics were a major draw for her. She earned a spot in one of their scholar programs, in which she can earn grants for research and studying abroad.
“Even though I’m going to be a long ways away, my family is really excited for me,” Mays said. “Everybody is happy I’ve found such a good fit.”