When you think about men's swimming and diving senior captain, Michael Ahern, the word "well-rounded" comes to mind. The senior from Old Westbury, N.Y., has made the most of his college experience and has grown to consider the Dartmouth swimming and diving team as family.
Ahern, a swimmer his entire life, realized that he wanted to swim in middle school.
"I've been swimming all my life; I'm from Long Island so I basically grew up around beaches and pool decks. I started swimming competitively when I was six or seven after my sister joined the Long Island Express, a local swim club. I realized I wanted to swim in college in middle school. By that time, I was convinced that I really loved swimming and I wanted to continue with the sport, but I wasn't really cut out to be an Olympic swimmer so college seemed like a good place to improve and be a part of a team."
When choosing between schools Ahern had trouble figuring out what his ideal campus would look like but when he came to Dartmouth everything clicked.
"When I came to visit Dartmouth it became pretty clear what I was looking for. I really liked the fact that it is a small tight-knit community with time-honored traditions. After I had the chance to talk to a few students and sit in on some classes, I knew that this was a place where I would feel welcome and where I could get the most out of my four years."
Throughout his career Ahern has had some unique experiences and one he won't forget is Homecoming his freshman year.
"Homecoming my freshman year, was the first time aside from freshmen trips that I really felt like a member of the Class of 2012 and part of the Dartmouth tradition. The parade through town, hearing President Wright's speech on the steps of Dartmouth Hall, and the bonfire were really awe-inspiring moments in my life. I'll also never forget that the men's swimmers and divers ran around the bonfire in our speedos leaving a temporary "suntan" on the entire left side of my body for the rest of the night."
Ahern has definitely improved in the pool over the course of his career here at Dartmouth. His freshman campaign, competing in mostly backstroke and freestyle events, he earned eight first-place finishes and numerous runner-up honors. As a sophomore he added butterfly events to his repertoire earning several first place finishes in those events while also competing on Dartmouth's freestyle and medley relays.
The New York native, began to see results during his junior campaign and set two Dartmouth varsity records during the Ivy League Championships in 2011. Ahern has really excelled in the backstroke events and is Dartmouth's varsity record holder in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 49.84 and the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:49.00.
Not only has Ahern's had success in the pool, but also he's been successful outside of the pool and was elected captain along with fellow senior Matt Stumpf last season.
"I was honored when I was elected captain last year," said Ahern. "As an underclassman I always looked up to the captains for inspiration and guidance. So I felt a little strange when I had to step into this position; I felt like I had some big shoes to fill. For me, being a captain means leading the team in the right direction by promoting a healthy attitude and demonstrating a good work ethic so that we can continue to move to the top. It also means preserving the camaraderie I witnessed as a prospective student athlete, that convinced me to join the Dartmouth swim team."
While Ahern has had much success in the pool, there are several things that he would still like to accomplish before racing his last collegiate races.
"I've never been in the Top three in my events at the Ivy League Championships, so that is definitely a goal this season. My goal this season is to keep getting faster, move up the podium at the Ivy League Championships and to reset some of the Dartmouth records before I leave here."
Ahern has been a part of a team that has made some big strides throughout his career. When Ahern was a freshman Dartmouth finished last at the Ivy League Championships and last year Dartmouth defeated Brown in an Ivy League dual meet and took seventh place at the Ivy League Championships. This season the Big Green is continuing with the theme of improvement. Already this season Dartmouth has defeated Cornell and Brown and earned a Top 20 ranking in the Avida Performance rankings and entered the CollegeSwimming.Com mid major poll at No. 12.
"I have seen this team make tremendous progress since I joined the team as a freshman and I look forward to seeing what we can do this season. We have more depth on our roster and more speed than we've ever had before and I'm excited to see if we can bump any other teams off in the dual meet season, and I'm excited to see how we'll compete at the Ivy League Championships.
As a history major, Ahern has learned the art of time management but he's learned the balance is important and has had quite the support from the swim coaches as well as the Dartmouth athletic department.
"Being a student-athlete and competing at the collegiate level requires a lot of discipline and time management," said Ahern. "We train 20 hours a week and have eight meets including the Ivy League Championships throughout the fall and winter. Basically, that means we're exhausted and broken down for most of the academic year and at times we're removed from our studies. But I credit the coaches and athletic department who do a great job of reminding us that we're students first and foremost and they help us in managing our work."
If you're a member of the Dartmouth swimming and diving teams you know what the phrase "money in the bank" means and senior Mickey Ahern is definitely "money in the bank."
This feature appeared in the Dec. 12 edition of the Dartmouth Big Green Sports News