Senior Spotlight: Shannon Garlie
Feb. 16, 2012
This long distance swimmer has made many strides during her four-year KU career, inside the pool and out.
Legendary basketball Coach John Wooden once said that failing to prepare is like preparing to fail. For Kansas senior swimmer Shannon Garlie, this adage has became a reflection of her approach to practice and preparation throughout her four-year KU career.
“I just think if I’m not going to work hard in practice, why be here?” the team captain asked.
That attitude has made an impression on head coach Clark Campbell, who sees the senior as one of the hardest working and most improved swimmers he has had the pleasure of working with.
“Shannon has had more growth in four years than 95 percent of the athletes I have been able to work with,” Campbell explained. “She has grown so much as a student, as an athlete and as person. It has just been really fun to watch.”
For the Fort Collins, Colo. native, that growth began even before she dove into the pool at Robinson Natatorium. It dates back to 2007, when Garlie was choosing which school she would eventually swim for.
“In high school, when I was deciding between here (Kansas) and Colorado State, my mom and grandmother were kind of pushing me toward KU,” she remembered. “I said, ‘If you keep pushing me, I am not going to go there’.”
As a matter of full disclosure, Garlie’s mother (Glee Jewell) was not just any pushy parent. She is in fact a former Kansas swimmer (1976-80), who wanted her daughter to carry on their family’s proud tradition of competition at KU.
“It’s neat because we definitely can share that experience,” the soon-to-be graduate said of her second generation swimming connection. “I know that she will probably still want to go to KU meets, and I will to even when I am done.”
As for that important decision four years ago, Garlie knew she would be coming to Kansas, regardless of her mother and grandmother’s not so subtle urging.
“When I came on my (official recruiting) trip I knew I was going to go here (KU) because it was just so fun,” she recalled. “I knew this is where I wanted to be.”
Once Garlie stepped foot into her home pool her freshman year, there was no looking back as the then 18-year old swam into the KU record books, helping her 800 freestyle relay team compile a 7:13.86 time at the 2009 Big 12 Championships.
“I was not one of the fastest coming in,” the long distance swimmer remembered about her role in the record-breaking performance. “So being able to make that mark as a freshman and scoring in relays was really exciting.”
Garlie also dropped about a minute off of her mile time in the freestyle at Big 12’s in Columbia, Mo., that same year.
To be sure that her fast finishes her freshman year would not lead to a sophomore slump, the distance swimmer hit the pool even harder than she ever had before. As her coach now explains, all that hard work and preparation has steadily continued to pay off.
“She has almost improved a minute in the mile and several seconds in the 200 and 500 frees,” Campbell said. “She was kind of a borderline Big 12-type caliber athlete coming in, but is now a legitimate Big 12 athlete going out.”
But it was not just her work in the pool alone, that has impressed her teammates and coaches.
“Shannon has really grown as a leader,” Campbell explained. “Instead of just thinking, ‘I am born with it or not’, she has she done more to expand her knowledge base of what it means to become a leader.”
“She gets the job done when it needs to get done,” said Garlie’s former teammate and current student assistant coach Joy Bunting. “She’s okay with doing background work, but she is also sensitive enough that she can reach out to the girls when they need it.”
Even though it took some adjusting for Garlie to assume the responsibilities that come with the title of captain, the now 21-year old took it all in stride.
“I went in with the mindset that I was going to mess up no matter what because I am human,” she explained. “So I am going to just do everything that I know I can do to be the best captain that I can be.”
Bunting also knows what it’s like to be in Garlie’s position, having to take on that all-important leadership role as she was named senior captain last season, (which was Garlie’s junior year).
“For every senior, I think it takes them a while to realize that they can only lead the way they want to lead,” Bunting explained. “Once Shannon understood how she was comfortable leading, that is when she really stepped up to the challenge and was confident in what she was doing.”
Leadership aside, Garlie knows her performance at the conference championships in just a few short days will ultimately be decided by seconds and minutes, which is why she is looking forward to finishing her career just like she started it; strong and fast.
“I am really excited for Big 12’s and it will be here before I know it,” she disclosed. “I am looking forward to swimming fast and watching my teammates do the same!”
While Garlie still has at least one more splash to make in the pool before her collegiate career is complete, her coach can’t help but look ahead toward next year when there will be a void in the stands and at the pool.
“Her mom is probably our biggest fan and we always know that Glee is going to be taking lots of pictures,” the 10-year coaching veteran explained. “So it is just going to be really different next year not having them around as much.”
As for Garlie’s final appearance as a student-athlete representing the University of Kansas, Campbell offered some words of wisdom prior to the Jayhawks’ trip to Columbia.
“I think the most important thing is to relax and to live in the moment,” he said. “Shannon is going to be doing the 200, the 500 and the mile (freestyle) and swimming on relays, so she has a lot of racing ahead of her. She is such an important part of what we want to do.”
While Campbell stresses the importance of being in the moment to one of his most improved swimmers, Shannon Garlie will already feel at ease and up to the task because, after all, the senior will do what she does best, work hard to prepare for the occasion when she is needed most.
ABOVE LEFT: Garlie in 2011 / ABOVE RIGHT: Garlie’s mother in 1979