The ASU club swim team began during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when five students got together to form the team with a Facebook post.
"Coming to ASU, I was so upset that there was no club team," said founding member and senior health sciences student Emma Plattner.
Now she can leave knowing she made her mark by helping establish the program.
In the beginning stages, there was no swimming given the pandemic. For some practices, only one person would be in the pool.
Founding member and president Aashish Yadav, a senior studying biological sciences, reminisced on the hard times when the club was just beginning. He remembered tears in his goggles after no one came to practice.
"I was the only one that showed up, and after all this hard work, I was so sad," Yadav said.
But he still got in the pool, and it paid off two years later after seeing this year's turnout.
The club went from no one knowing it existed to 120 people trying out for the team this year. Before this new season, the team couldn't fill the pool, and now it is overflowing. The team has 85 members on its roster, an increase from 70 in the year prior.
"We might be close to turning people away," Plattner said.
The board of members still plans on doing more outreach. The team promotes inclusivity, and most of the athletes have a competitive swim background. The board knows what works and it's their welcoming environment.
"We want to maintain that same community and that close-knit environment that we had last year," said board member Ethan Anderson, an undergraduate student studying biochemistry.
The club creates this environment through fundraising events and team bonding. Members want to have a balance between serious goals like competitions and creating friendship at the same time.
"At the end of the day, it's really fun to practice, but it's more fun to take a big group to a meet and absolutely blow everyone out of the water," Anderson said.
Yadav said having a close-knit bond on the team is what contributed to its growth in numbers. The main priority for him is for ASU's team to become one of the top swim clubs in the country.
Last season, the team competed in three meets — in the UCLA Invitational, they came in seventh, finished in fourth at the UCSD Invitational and second at the ASU Invitational. The team did qualify for the 2022 College Club Swimming National Championship last spring, but were unable to compete.
Clarke said the team was at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport until their flight got delayed. The team sat on the tarmac for about three hours when the flight crew timed out, and the airline could not get a new crew.
The team had to deplane and there were no other flights going to Atlanta until after the meet, so the team went home.
However, that did not crush their spirits. They said this is their redemption arc from last season and are focusing on making it to nationals once again.
Freshmen make up almost half of the roster. More is to come from this team as they prepare for their second road to nationals.
"It's very rewarding, and it will continue forever," Plattner said about the legacy of the club.
The team already opened up their season with the Maroon and Gold intrasquad meet on Sept. 21. They will compete at GCU in their first official meet of the 2022 season on Oct. 22.
Edited by Walker Smith, Logan Stanley and Piper Hansen.