Van Ryen signs with Lenoir-Rhyne
For a long time, Nicole Van Ryen really didn’t think much about pursuing swimming in college. But when it came time for her to decide, she couldn’t imagine her life without it.
Despite illness and injuries that hampered her through much of her career, Van Ryen, a senior at Ragsdale, has signed with NCAA Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University to continue swimming at the next level.
“I figured that I had so many injuries that have gotten in the way over the last four years that I haven’t really had a chance to see how far I can take swimming,” says Van Ryen, the daughter of Marianne and Jeff of Greensboro.
“So, I figure over the next four years I can really branch out and see how far it can take me. And I’ve had such a great experience swimming over all these years that I didn’t want to stop.”
She began swimming with her summer league team in Adams Farm when she was 8 years old and shortly thereafter began swimming year-round with High Point Swim Club and coach Aaron Reeves to help her keep improving.
Although swimming was something different than the sports many kids her age were playing, she found a passion for it and committed herself to doing the things, like working out and eating healthy, she needed to do to be successful.
“It was kind of a new challenge,” says Van Ryen, who mainly swims the 200 and 400 IM. “Not many people swim or even know a lot about swimming. So, it’s kind of interesting. Everyone does soccer and sports like that when they’re younger.
“When you get into swimming, it’s just a different aspect of everything. Instead of running around, you practice in the water and swim around and everything. So, it was kind of a different perspective.”
Van Ryen qualified for states her freshman year but battled illness and joint and back problems over the next several years. Furthermore, as a senior, she fractured a bone in her arm when she and a teammate collided during practice.
Despite all of the struggles and disruptions, she still managed to qualify for states her senior year, in which she was named captain, cementing her passion for swimming and pushing her continue following it as far it it will take her.
“I had to sit down and think about it. At first, I didn’t want to swim in college — I’ve swum since I as 9,” she says. “But the beginning of this year I realized that I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s like a home to me.”
Adds Ragsdale coach Jacquelyn Bair: “She certainly loves swimming. That’s the only way you can get back in the water after some of those things. And just her determination, her motivation. She’s been a great leader.”
Her decision came down to swimming at Lenoir-Rhyne and attending Western Carolina. She decided she wanted to swim and knew that campus and academics at Lenoir-Rhyne and the Bears’ swimming program were the right fit.
“When I visited, everything kind of clicked into place,” says Van Ryen, who wants to study physical therapy. “The campus was really nice, really homey. The people there are really nice, and the coach seems like a really nice guy too. …
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” she says of signing. “It’s still kind of: Am I really doing this? It’s really exciting to be able to go off for the next four years and swim.”