Standout collegiate swimmer Sydney Zupan has a problem: what to do now?
Zupan, of Wildwood, and a graduate of Heritage Classical Christian Academy in West County, recently saw her college swimming career at Missouri State come to an end.
“Figuring out how to spend my newfound free time has proved rather difficult,” Zupan said. “However, I have used the extra time to study, spend time with friends and family, and explore new modes of physical activity.
“I know swimming will always be an integral part of my life and, after a few years off, I plan to become a member of a Masters swim program.”
Zupan was named the Missouri Valley Conference’s Swimmer of the Year.
“It was a great honor to be selected as the MVC Swimmer of the Year, as there are so many deserving athletes in the conference,” Zupan said. “It was also meaningful to be able to follow in the footsteps of MSU Swimming greats, including Renata Sander, Dora Kiss, and Lauren Pavel, who won the award in previous years.”
Missouri State coach Dave Collins said Zupan is deserving.
“We have all seen her daily commitment to this program for the last four years,” Collins said. “I consider myself very lucky to be her coach.”
Going into the conference meet, Zupan said her senior season was a good one for her and the team.
“Ending the year with a 5-1 dual meet record—the women’s team’s best regular season dual meet record in the four years I competed for MSU was good,” Zupan said. “I enjoyed the team’s week-long training trip to Houston and valued the opportunity to train at Rice University’s state-of-the-art facilities. My all-time favorite memory from this season, though, was camping overnight as a team at coach [Chelsea] Dirks-Ham’s farm while in Kansas for our annual two-day dual meet against KU. ”
The Bears had some definite goals heading into Valley meet in Iowa City, Iowa, Zupan said.
“We wanted to win the meet, obviously, but we wanted to do so as a team, supporting each other and celebrating each other’s successes at every opportunity,” Zupan said. “In years’ past, team chemistry was not as it could have been, and that sub-optimal atmosphere contributed greatly to a crushing, half-point loss my sophomore year.
“However, our modified team culture both this year and last was fundamental to renewing our success at the Valley meet. It was important to us to continue the positivity from this year through the duration of the championship meet. I definitely think we succeeded in this area. Achieving school and conference records in as many events as possible was also a team goal.”
The Bears won the team title.
Zupan won three individual events. She captured conference titles in the 100 butterfly with a tie of 53.65 seconds, the 100 backstroke in 54.38 and the 200 backstroke in 1:55.00.
She set Missouri State and Valley record with her times in the 100 butterfly and 200 backstroke.
“Personal best times are always exciting,” Zupan said. “Going best times and achieving school and conference records to boot is that much more thrilling. While I am proud of my achievements, what has been most meaningful to me has been the opportunity to compete as an athlete for dedicated coaches who encouraged me to dream big and helped me reach my goals, and supportive teammates who pushed me to be better day in and day out. My achievements at this meet would certainly not have been possible without this opportunity or these people.”
In addition, Zupan was on four winning relay teams as well. She was a member of the 200 medley relay, and the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle relays. The times in the freestyle relays were Missouri State and Valley records.
Zupan acknowledged it was a lot to comprehend.
“I never imagined having the meet that I did,” Zupan said. “There are so many tough competitors at the Valley meet and, in most races, it’s hard to predict who will emerge victorious. Going into the meet, I had hoped to be lucky enough to walk away with just one individual title. To win three individual titles was something I never thought possible. Relay-wise, I knew how hard my teammates had worked and that they were ready to swim some impressive times. I was just lucky enough to be able to compete with them as a member of the relay squads, and we all were thrilled by each relay’s outcome.”
While she is a record-winning swimmer, Zupan also excels in the classroom.
She has maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA while studying cell and molecular biology. That earned her the league’s Elite 17 Award.
“Earning the Elite 17 Award was so meaningful to me, and I’m thankful and honored to have been selected by the league,” Zupan said.
Zupan thanked her coaches for her success in the pool at Missouri State.
“Following the completion of this year’s Valley meet, my swimming career officially ended,” Zupan said. “I am forever indebted to my coaches Dave Collins and Chelsea Dirks-Ham for allowing me the opportunity to represent MSU and for supporting, encouraging and investing in me so well over the past four years.”