By Leah Mize
Hana van Loock swam before she could walk. Her mother took her to baby swimming lessons at three months old, which kickstarted her lifelong participation in the sport.
“I grew up in Japan, where I first learned how to swim,” said van Loock, University of Tampa international business and management major and member of the women’s swim team. “I then moved to Russia, back to Japan, until I eventually moved to Germany in high school.”
For van Loock, swimming was consistent throughout all of these moves and was always there for her. Because of her transient childhood the initial adjustment to college athletics and academics wasn’t difficult.
“It wasn’t always easy to balance schoolwork, practices, my on-campus job, and my social life, and there were days where I didn’t want to get up at 5:30am,” said van Loock. “I was lucky to have such an amazing support system.”
Van Loock was recently awarded the NCAA Elite 90 award for the 2021 NCAA Division II Women’s Swimming Championship. The award is given to the student-athlete boasting “the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals for each of the NCAA’s championships” according to UT’s athletic department. Van Loock’s GPA is a 4.0.
“I knew I was nominated for the Elite 90 award, as my coaches told me about it,” she said. “I didn’t find out I had won until it was announced at the pool, right before the final session of the meet. I was standing next to my coach when I heard my name through the speakers and I felt so happy to be recognized for all the hard work I’ve put in over the past four years.”
For the past four years she has trained in the sprint group during practices but recently added a new element to her training as part of accommodating a shoulder injury. Van Loock can no longer train for the 100 backstroke, an event favorable to sprinters. Instead she started training with the 500 freestyle group for endurance. These endurance practices improved her 200 freestyle, a middle distance event she’s more familiar with.
Van Loock’s competitive swimming career is winding down but her 20-plus career in the pool is supporting her in other ways.
“One of the important things swimming taught me was mental toughness,” she said. “Mental toughness does not always mean that you have to get through it on your own, but I think it also means to know when to rely on others.”
Van Loock attributes the “family-feel” of the UT swim team to her college athletic career.
“I don’t think I would have stayed in this sport for so long if I wouldn’t have found UT swim.” she said.