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Laurel resident closes swim career with a bang

Laurel native Jessica Sweitzer closed her college career by winning her final race for Washington and Jefferson College.
Laurel native Jessica Sweitzer closed her college career by winning her final race for Washington and Jefferson College. (File photo/BSMG)

Jessica Sweitzer tried to find a happy medium between a sense of urgency and a calm approach to the end of her competitive swimming career.

A senior at Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., the Seton Keough graduate and Laurel resident, realized her career was coming to an end in the Presidents Athletic Conference championship meet.

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"I was definitely thinking that for every single race," said Sweitzer, who competed in three individual and four relay events. "It was really weird to think about that. It definitely gave me the motivation to swim as fast as possible. I just tried to go into the race really relaxed."

Sweitzer, who attended Faith Baptist in Laurel for elementary school and grew up in Old Town, certainly went out with a bang in the Division III meet Feb. 15.

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In the last individual race of her college career, she took first in the 100 freestyle in a time of 52.45 to beat the field by .28 seconds.

She was also third — by just .1 second — in the 200 freestyle and eighth in the 500 freestyle after she entered the event as the No. 12 seed in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

Washington & Jefferson placed third in the PAC meet - the best finish in the four years that Sweitzer was part of the squad. Sweitzer was the only Maryland resident on the women's team for head coach Mike Orstein.

The Presidents had 446 points while host Grove City won with 808.5 points. The W&J men were fourth out of nine teams in the event while Westminster won the men's title. The men's team at Washington & Jefferson includes sophomore Chris Ratliff, a sophomore from Eldersburg and Century High in Carroll County.

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Sweitzer was the PAC Swimmer of the Week in January when she won three events as the Presidents beat Penn State Behrend to improve to 9-2 in dual meets.

The senior won the 200 in 2:01.20 and the 500 in 5:35.70. The Laurel resident had the fastest split in the 200 freestyle relay in a time of 25.65 and her team won the event in 1:45.98.

She came through with an individual win in the 200 on Senior Day in late January against Wheeling Jesuit.

Sweitzer is slated to graduate in May with a double major in French and studio art, with a focus on graphic design in the latter major.

After 15 years as a competitive swimmer she will say goodbye to the early-morning high school practices and late-afternoon sessions in college.

"It will be weird," said Sweitzer, a former West Laurel summer swimmer who was a co-coach for the Wahoos last summer. "I am definitely looking forward to the break. It is a really demanding sport. It takes a lot of your time. I want to try other water sports like rowing and what not."

Sweitzer began swimming at an early age in the summers with West Laurel and then in elementary school joined the Maryland Suburban Swim Club at Fairland in West Laurel.

Coming out of high school, she considered Division I American and Division III schools Catholic and Washington College, in Maryland, before heading to Washington & Jefferson.

Despite the time commitment to swimming, she has been able to do other things in college. She studied a semester in France as a junior and also traveled to Ireland.

She also had an on-campus internship with a New York fashion company, Rent the Runway.

"I would like to work in the fashion industry with a creative team," she said of her post-graduate plans.

Sweitzer has certainly been part of some solid teams at Washington & Jefferson.

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