When redshirt sophomore Laura Garcia entered the transfer portal this summer after spending her freshman year on the University of Houston swim and dive team, she was looking to find a team that was more tight-knit.
She found it at ASU. Over the summer, the ASU swim and dive team picked up multiple transfers that coaches hope make a difference in the 2022-23 season.
It's not the first time Garcia has left a team for a new opportunity. Before she transferred to ASU, Garcia swam at the University of Houston. And before that, she grew up in Spain and competed in the European Championships, World Junior Championships, the European Youth Olympic Games and Spanish Championships. She is also a three-time finalist in 2021 at the American Athletic Conference Championships.
During her first year at Houston, she was named the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year and posted multiple top-10 times in program history in the 500-yard freestyle, 1000-yard freestyle and 400-yard IM.
However, Garcia wanted to experience more of a team environment filled with hard workers and feel close to her teammates. That was one aspect that went into her decision after speaking with some women's side members at ASU.
“I talked about their daily lives here, and I really liked it, and it’s what I wanted to do,” Garcia said. “The big thing I was looking for was the culture and team atmosphere.”
She liked how the girls' camaraderie on the team was and had support from people with the same goal as her.
“We all know where we want to go, how we want to do it and where we want to be, which I think has a huge impact on me,” Garcia said.
The transition from Spain to Houston to Arizona has been a crazy ride for Garcia, and it was a tough decision to make. She was choosing between staying in the United States to finish her athletic and academic career or returning to Spain.
However, Garcia was not alone during this struggle, as another Spanish swimmer she knew from back home had been with her in Houston. Mai Ortega Bonilla was on the Gredos San Diego club with Garcia in Madrid, Spain. They competed for Houston and entered the transfer portal at the same time.
“The transfer process is a challenge and a risk you have to take if you want something to change, and I think we would both agree that it was worth it,” Ortega Bonilla said. “Laura is such a hard worker, and I think this team can bring the best out of her.”
Ortega Bonilla now swims for Missouri State University and wishes Garcia the best, as she says she expects great things from her at ASU.
Another decision that went into Garcia’s transfer process was the assistant head coach, Rachel Stratton-Mills.
“I reached out to Rachel, and she helped me a lot in making a decision, and so far, it’s been really good,” Garcia said.
Stratton-Mills likes the experience and maturity that Garcia brings to the team and all their incoming transfers.
“While all come in with a different background, it is clear that these athletes came to ASU with the purpose of contributing and helping move this team forward,” Stratton-Mills said.
Stratton-Mills thinks the transfers have seamlessly integrated into the team, especially Garcia, who was looking for a team environment that motivated her to make the hard decision to enter the transfer portal.
In Garcia's debut, she raced in the first home meet of the season against Wisconsin back in October, racing in the 200-yard butterfly, the 400-yard IM and the 1000-yard freestyle.
Now Garcia continues her first season at ASU next week in the Wolfpack Invite from November 17-19.
Edited by Walker Smith, Wyatt Myskow and Kristen Apolline Castillo.