Before freshman swimmer Sarah Dotzel's name was ever uttered in a collegiate swim meet, her name incited fear with her club former team. At 5-foot 4-inches, it was neither Sarah's size nor demeanor that provoked terror, but rather the training regimen that became associated with her name.
"The ‘Sarah Dotzel Set' is a set created by my club coach when I was about 10 years old. It is a set focused on endurance," Dotzel said. "It's really difficult and just the name of it sent swimmers on my team into a panic, including me."
The ‘Sarah Dotzel Set' is emblematic of the fortitude and passion that Dotzel showed for the sport from an early age. While swimming for the YMCA in her hometown of York, Penn., Dotzel exceeded even her own expectations under the guidance of her coach, Michael Brooks.
"What enabled my success was a phenomenal coach who pushed me past what even I thought was possible in practice and at meets," Dotzel said.
Making the jump from club swimming to competing at the collegiate level required Dotzel to make some adjustments to continue her success. This included Dotzel forcing herself to adapt to a more demanding schedule, both academically and athletically.
"The major changes have been different kinds of training: including more practices, different kinds of sets and practices, and lifting," she said. "I had never lifted before college so it was a complete shock to me having to lift then go straight to a swim practice."
Often freshman year is a time for self-growth, where athletes look for personal improvement and do not necessarily make large contributions to their team. However, once Dotzel arrived in South Bend, she became motivated to do everything in her power to contribute immediately and help out her team.
"I had not fully realized how incredibly talented this team was until I was a part of it," she said. "Nothing compares to training and racing with them on a daily basis. I can already tell they are some of the greatest role models I will ever come in contact with. This alone makes me want to work my hardest to not only score points for them at meets, but also to achieve some of the things they have during their time on the team."
Dotzel's selfless attitude was on display during the team's meet against Michigan State on Oct. 29. When Dotzel got off the bus in East Lansing, she found out that she would be competing in the 400-yard individual medley.
"The 400 IM would not typically be placed in my usual list of events," Dotzel said. Irish assistant coach Kate Kovenock even had to assure Dotzel that she was actually in the race, and that it wasn't a rouse. When the race ended and Dotzel looked to the scoreboard for results, she was met with a pleasant surprise — she'd won.
"I'm not going to lie, I was incredibly excited when I looked at the clock and saw a one next to my name," she said.
However, even in the midst of her first collegiate win and a personal victory, Dotzel was sure to place her accomplishment within the confines of her team's success.
"The fact that I could achieve my first win in a challenging event that I did not feel extremely prepared for made me very proud of myself, but mostly proud that I was making my first contribution to the team," Dotzel said.
With her team-first attitude, Dotzel's main goal for her rookie season is oriented towards continuing the Notre Dam's dominance in the Big East.
"Notre Dame women's swimming has won 14 years in a row," she said. "I want to help make it 15."