Flashback Friday is looking back at the top moments from the 2017-18 athletic year each Friday over the summer at the College of Staten Island. This week, we continue with the countdown and look at the No. 7 moment, a night that CSI senior and recent graduate Ewa Wojciechowska will not forget, as she was named the CUNYAC’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
#7 – Women’s Swimming senior Ewa Wojciechowka wins CUNYAC Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year
Date: May 17, 2018
Who: Ewa Wojciechowska, Women’s Swimming
Where: John Jay College – New York, NY
What Happened: Sporting a 4.0 grade point average and on the heels of her Most Valuable Performer honor in her sport during the season, Ewa Wojciechowska took home the single biggest honor bestowed by the CUNYAC to a female student-athlete in Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors. Wojciechowska was also the CUNYAC Championship Meet MVP and left CSI a 12-time record holder and with Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors at the annual awards banquet.
Q&A…with Ewa Wojciechowska
Ewa, let’s start off with the obvious question. How did it feel to receive the highest honor given by the conference this season at their annual dinner? It was incredible, really. I came into college wanting to do my best in both school and swimming, but I never expected to win an award this big my senior year. It means a lot to have graduated with the honor.
The dinner itself showcases the finest CUNYAC senior athletes. How amazing was the honor knowing the terrific collection of other athletes that were there? CUNY is full to the brim with incredible student-athletes, coming from over a dozen different schools, all playing and competing for nothing other than their love for sports. To be picked for this award out of such a hardworking cohort makes it mean so much more.
Being a great athlete and a scholar takes a lot of work. Time management is probably the biggest skill you would need. Explain the strategies you utilized to make it work. I think that time management was probably the most stressful part about being a student-athlete. Sports added a whole new workload to my schedule, and I decided I just had to buckle down and make sure I could always make it to practice and class. I probably spent hours making and staring at calendars, trying to organize all the things I wanted to do in the most effective way possible. Ultimately, it came down to just staying organized and keeping my goals in sight, semester by semester.
You’ve broken so many records at CSI, and many of them you broke many times over. What does it take for a swimmer to push herself to get stronger and stronger in the pool? Swimming’s a tough sport in that if you ever take even two days off in a row, you start to lose a lot of the progress you’ve been making all season. I’ve seen so many great swimmers rise up and make incredible times, and they were always the ones showing up to practice the most, working out the hardest, and rarely complaining. I had many such role models on my own team, and they really helped push me at practice so I could be better come race day. I think self-discipline is a big part of getting stronger in any sport, but having teammates that push you in a positive way really makes a difference.
Along with records came the perfect standing in the classroom. Keeping a 4.0 GPA has to be incredibly tough. There is such little room for error. Was it always a goal to have a perfect 4.0, or did it just sort of happen? I think after my freshman year, keeping a 4.0 became a goal. I came into CSI with a go-getter mentality, but I didn’t expect to do as well as I did at first. After my first year, I decided I had to keep it going, and every year after that I believed more and more that I could do it.
At some point there has to be some pressure to keep a 4.0. Maybe by your junior year? Did you feel that pressure later in your academic career, especially as the classes tend to get tougher? There was definitely pressure, especially junior year. At one point that year I took 20 credits and really thought I was going to have to sacrifice somewhere with my GPA, but the desire to prove to myself that I could graduate with a 4.0 is what kept me going.
In your acceptance speech you spoke about how you nearly gave up swimming, if not for the encouragement of your coaching staff. Talk about how important it is to have a support system in place as an athlete, to keep that competitive drive going. At about at least two points in my swimming career, I went to Coach Mike and told him I might not be able to continue swimming. Mike never tried to push me to keep swimming if I didn’t want to, and instead offered me support and alternatives to quitting altogether. Without my incredible coaching staff, and without the kindness of all the athletics staff at CSI as a whole, I likely would have quit when my responsibilities got too difficult to balance. I’m very fortunate and thankful to have had the support that I did during my time at CSI.
Ewa, the dinner that honored you showcased how important the CUNYAC considers academics in its role in the student-athlete experience. How important is it to play in a conference and in a program that values that part of a student’s regimen? I find athletics and academics to be equally important and valuable, and to be a part of a conference that feels the same way is wonderful. I fully believe that swimming made me a better student because it taught me the kind of discipline and work ethic that I would not have gotten from the classroom alone. Sports and school both teach similar values, but I think that together they have a much stronger effect.
At the dinner, you brought your parents and you can see how proud they were of you. That had to make you feel so great, to share that moment with them. Can you explain that feeling, especially with how they supported you in your career? My parents have always done whatever they could to provide me with all sorts of opportunities, and I was very happy to be able to say thank you to them by winning this award. Without their hard work, I would not have been able to swim or even attend school, and this award shows them that I did my best to make it all count.
Winning this award, the CSI awards you’ve won, the records you hold…what does your playing career at CSI mean to you? It means so much, and it’s so surreal to think that I won’t be back in the pool next year. Swimming was a big part of my identity, and lately I’ve been thinking about how weird it’ll be to not have wet hair in the winter for the first time in years. Above all, I’m sad that I won’t be able to swim with my teammates again or compete for my school, but I know that I’ll always cherish the memories that I’ve made as both a student and an athlete at CSI.