Of all the freshman athletes beginning their careers at the University of Cincinnati this fall, perhaps none have gotten off to a stronger start than freshman swimmer Jessica Piper.
Piper, an 18-year old freshman is undefeated in three meets as a Bearcat, compiling a perfect 8-0 record. In addition to her perfect individual record, she is 3-1 in relays she’s been a part of.
“Compared to senior year, since I kind of had a mild case of senioritis, my training kind of slacked and so did my competitions,” Piper said. “Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve been putting a lot more effort into swimming, and into everything I guess. I’ve just been focusing more on swimming.”
And her focus has paid off. Piper’s times in the 100 and 200-yard backstroke and breaststroke have not only earned her wins, but the respect of her teammates and coaches.
It was unlikely that Piper — a St. Petersburg, Fla., native — even wound up here in Cincinnati; during the fall of her senior year Piper used all five of her official college visits, on schools other than Cincinnati.
“She had kind of decided to go elsewhere for her official visits,” Said Assistant Swimming Coach Mandi DiSalle. “She contacted us later in the fall because she wasn’t happy with any of the places she had been. None of them seemed to really have the right fit for her.”
Piper and her mother were looking at programs all over the country, when they stumbled upon UC.
“I was just having a really hard time choosing between the schools that I was looking at and my mom and I just decided to keep looking because I wasn’t 100% sure. She looked into it and thought I should look here,” Piper said. “So I just decided to go for it and take a trip and I loved it here.”
The trip was a major personal commitment, because Piper had used all of her official visits, the family had to financially commit to fly here and stay the weekend. But after meeting with coach’s and visiting campus, it was apparent that the visit was worth it — for Piper and UC.
“We knew she was good, and we knew she was versatile. We were very happy when she signed.” Said Bearcats Head Coach Monty Hopkins.
Piper committed to UC in the fall of her senior year, and has seen success since joining the team. She attributes much of this success to her teammates.
“Everyone on this team is so determined and just have really good team chemistry,” Piper said. “It’s really easy to want to work hard for the team, and not just for yourself.”
Hopkins believes that Pipers hard work and impressive start have her on pace to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
“All that she’s done in the first two meets, that’s just the starting place where hopefully she will take that and use that momentum to work harder and achieve bigger and better things, bigger goals,” Hopkins said. “I think she’s got a chance of coming close to NCAA.
Piper’s time of 2 minutes and 1 second in the 200-yard backstroke isn’t quite fast enough to qualify for the NCAA Championships, Hopkins said. But if she can shave five seconds off her time, she could find herself in national title contention.
“There’s so much more to do, she’s been 2:01 in the 200 backstroke but she needs to go 1:55 to make NCAA or better,” Hopkins said. “If you can go 2:01 in the fall when you’re working hard, I think she should be able to drop into the 1:55 or 1:56 range. Now the faster you go the harder it gets.”
Piper will look to remain undefeated this weekend at the Purdue Invitational in West Lafayette, Ind.
Thus far, Piper has shown no signs of slowing down, but making it to NCAA meet is not necessarily her goal. Individual success isn’t her goal at all, she said.
“I’m not good at making goals,” Piper said. “I just know I’m going to put 100% into the competitions and help my team out as much as possible. I hope to be a big contributor to the team.”