Maria Mayrovich: Not Giving Up on Her Dreams
Nov. 3, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. — It’s the middle of the night and Maria Mayrovich has woken up yet again in her Lawrence apartment, exhausted. Her arms are tired and her legs are sore from racing in the water, but as she gets up she notices her limbs and legs aren’t really worn out at all. The former KU swimmer quickly realizes that she had been dreaming she was back in the pool, swimming in competitive meets.
These intense dreams have turned back into a reality for the 24-year old, who, after seeing this scenario play out a number of times since the end of her collegiate career in 2009, decided to get back into the water and race in real life rather than in her mind.
“I took a little break right after I was done,” Mayrovich remembered. “I had a couple of health issues I needed to take care of, so I kind of took it easy. At that time though, I was kind of debating whether I should keep going or be done.”
Not sure of her final decision, the collegiate standout continued to exercise and swim on a regular basis, but was not racing. Still, that competitive desire found a way to make its presence known to one time student-athlete.
“After the break I realized that I still had something left and I was not ready to let it go,” she said. “I was thinking about swimming, I was even dreaming about it. I would wake up and realize that I was racing in my dream pretty much every night.”
Mayrovich’s late night swimming sessions became so frequent and so real that she finally caved in and figured she would turn her dreams into reality.
“It was driving me crazy because when I raced I could see my results to one the one-hundredths (of a second),” she said. “So I thought maybe I should go back to swimming and at least give it a try.”
The Russian-born swimmer started to train again this past spring, but did not start swimming in earnest until the summer.
“She is in that post-grad training mode,” said KU head swimming coach Clark Campbell, who now oversees the majority of Mayrovich’s workouts. “You train athletes that are post-college differently, especially ones with her type of swimming background.”
“My training is totally different now that I am not in college,” she said. “It is a little bit lighter and I have my own schedule. I feel so mature and grown up now because I know who I am doing this for. I am not just swimming because my family or my coach wants me to; I am getting into the water because I want to.”
That schedule includes her own weight program and swimming regimen, which she alone sets the pace for. After a few months of preparing, Mayrovich literally jumped into the summer swimming season by competing for Kansas Aquatics at sectionals in Columbia, Mo., this past July.
“It was a strange feeling at first,” Mayrovich said about competing for a club team and not a Division I program. “The entire time I was in the U.S., I competed for a college team, but I had fun.”
The Russian freestyler quickly became accustomed to her new surroundings and training regimen. So much so that she scored a total of 40 points for her team at Sectionals, in large part by finishing first in the 100-meter freestyle (57.57) and 50 free (25.90). Her first leg of the 400 freestyle relay (57.09) was even good enough to earn her a spot at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, if she were a US citizen.
Mayrovich’s fast start to her post-college career may have come as a small surprise to herself, but not to her former KU and current Kansas Aquatics teammate Danielle Herrmann.
“It did not really surprise me because I knew how much she loves swimming and wanted to come back,” Herrmann said. “I knew when she did it that she was going to do really well because of that passion.”
Like Mayrovich, Herrmann started swimming again competitively once her eligibility was up at Kansas in 2009. While the pair of former Jayhawks is on a similar path, current KU swimmers have a bit of a different life in and out of the pool. Still, swimmers past and present find some common ground to build upon.
“Girls on the team look at me (and what I am doing) and understand that I have my own reasons for continuing to swim,” Mayrovich said. “Everyone has been really nice and I am still friends with all of them.”
Sometimes the 24-year-olds past swimming experience comes in handy when current KU swimmers have questions.
“I try to help a lot of them just by letting them know about my own experiences,” Mayrovich said.
Those experiences include qualifying for the NCAA Championships her senior season (2008-09) and setting a school record in the 200 free (1:46.19) that’s same year. She also can claim the fastest times in two events inside Robinson Natatorium. Her 50 (22.72) and 100 freestyle (50.74) performances still stand as the pool’s benchmark.
Even though the school record holder knows what her immediate future holds, she also has a clear vision for later on in life. Mayrovich wants to own her own consulting business for athletes like herself, coming to the U.S. from foreign countries.
“I came here, I swam here and I received an education here,” she said. “So others may want to know how I was able to do that.”
With her future career plans on hold for now, Mayrovich has her sights set on what she can accomplish while still in the pool and that even includes a possible Olympic run.
“If I cannot go to U.S. Nationals, I may go to Russian Nationals, where we will be holding Olympic trials for my country,” she said. “Since I am one of the top Russian swimmers in my events, I have a real chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.”
“I like to call it the `five ring fever,’ Coach Campbell said. “Whenever it is an Olympic year, there are a lot of swimmers who come out of the woodwork to live out their dream.”
But as Campbell puts it, Mayrovich’s dream may not be that far off from reality.
“Her 50 free time was one of the top-150 in the world this year, so what she did coming off of only three months of training is a pretty remarkable accomplishment,” he said.
Now that Mayrovich’s dreams have become reality, she finds herself swimming less in her sleep and more in the pool, but there are still times when she gets back into the water in her dreams.
“Sometimes when I take breaks I do,” she said. “When I am not swimming physically, I am swimming mentally.”
If this Russian-born swimmer continues to let her love and passion for swimming fuel her hard work in and out of the pool, then who knows, one day she may be standing on a podium listening to her native land’s national anthem with a gold medallion around her neck. Even if that scene is just a dream at first, given Maria Mayrovich’s track record, it will soon become reality.