Siverling finishing up her Penn State career swimmingly

Caroline Briselli, Schreyer Honors Scholar
March 18, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For many Penn State students, last week’s spring break was a time to decompress, perhaps by spending time with family or relaxing on a warm beach.

This was not the case for Schreyer Honors Scholar Megan Siverling, a senior on the Nittany Lion Women’s Swimming team, who spent her spring break at University Park training in the pool. Siverling will be competing in three events, the 200-, 500- and 1,650-yard Freestyle races, at the NCAA Division I Swimming and Diving Championships, this week in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“Four of our seniors will be at NCAAs and that’s going to be, sort of, our last lap,” said Megan Siverling, who ends her four-year collegiate swimming career as a multi-event and three-time annual qualifier for the national meet. “I think everyone’s goal is to have fun, and the rest will fall into place.”

Coming to Penn State as a freshman, Siverling never thought she would set records at the University. She holds two individual Penn State records -- 1000-yard Freestyle (9:45.41) and the 1,650-yard Freestyle (16:07.55) -- and was the lead leg on the record-setting 800-yard Freestyle Relay team(7:05.42). Now, four years later, after she has broken record after record, she still believes that the ultimate goal is improvement, both as individuals and as a team.     

“It’s really cool to be part of a team where you can always count on each other to be constantly breaking records,” said Siverling, commenting that records are meant to be broken. “Once I’ve graduated and keep watching results, it will be exciting to see those records fall because I know the team will continue to get faster.”

Her team-oriented attitude was recognized at the conference championship meet when Siverling was awarded Penn State's Big Ten Sportsmanship Award for Women's Swimming. The award is presented to student-athletes who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.

“To be in the same group with those three people I’ve seen [win the Sportsmanship Award] before me was a big honor [and] that the coaches recognized that I contributed something other than athletic performance was an honor,” Siverling said. “I think it’s really nice of the Big Ten to recognize sportsmanship, too.”

Over the course of her career at Penn State, Siverling has spent around 20 hours training each week, but she emphasized that swim practices provided structure, putting positive stress on the team and keeping them motivated, both in the pool and the classroom.

This structure has helped Siverling plan her college career so she could balance both athletics and academics. With this in mind, the nutritional sciences major began her thesis, the culmination of an honor’s student experience, in the fall of her junior year. Planning ahead gave her more time to work on the project which is a secondary data analysis of research she conducted at the on-campus Center for Childhood Obesity. The research focuses on predictors of bone mineral content in 13-year-old girls.

“Knowing that I had a thesis to complete made me much more aware of the opportunities for working in labs,” Siverling said of the Schreyer Honors requirement. “I think Schreyer, more than anything, almost forces you to go out of your comfort zone.”

Siverling has taken advantage of many Schreyer opportunities, including Distinguished Honors Faculty Programs, which she said she enjoys because they are a way to meet professors and students who are passionate about topics outside of their major. Siverling also has found that the opportunity to “honors-option” classes – making a course more challenging or in-depth by working with the professor to add additional components to a class – has been very rewarding.

The Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, native has worked with other students in her major to honors-option several nutrition classes. Through special projects she has designed for these honors-option courses, she has had the opportunity to interact with women at the Pregnancy Resource Clinic and residents at the Village at Penn State.

“Those are such out-of-the-classroom experiences that I couldn’t have had without professors willing to work with specializing and personalizing the class. It’s really cool to get that human interaction and experience it in the field,” Siverling said. “Professors were so supportive for what I aspired to do and wanted to help wherever they could.”

Siverling said the professors and advisers in the nutritional sciences have been very supportive as she prepares for life after graduation. She is currently applying to dietetic internships on the east coast with the ultimate goal of becoming a registered dietician.

She became interested in nutritional sciences as a high school student after recognizing that her performance in the pool would improve when she ate wholesome meals. Last summer, she witnessed firsthand the important role that nutritionists have in the lives of people diagnosed with diabetes after spending a week as a counselor at Camp Setebaid, a camp for children with Type 1 diabetes. Siverling also has spent time during the school year shadowing a local dietician who does outpatient weight loss counseling.

While Siverling’s collegiate swimming career may be coming to a close, she is definitely not slowing down, just switching gears. Siverling will fill her now-open hours searching for internships and has exciting plans for her immediate future. Even though she will see twin sister Danielle, a swimmer at the University of North Carolina, on deck at the NCAA Championships, she has plans to visit her in Chapel Hill as well. The twins’ parents, Curt and Mary Beth Siverling, will be cheering in Greensboro this week as both daughters will compete in the 200- and 500-yard Freestyle events.

The theme of family -- and travel -- continues for Siverling. She will spend Easter at her grandparents’ house, run a half-marathon in Annapolis, then travel to Europe with her family in June. She also will return to Camp Setebaid.

Additionally, Siverling will be participating in a mission trip to Haiti through Penn State Christian Athletics, an organization she has become very involved with in her time at University Park. She said she hopes the trip -- her first foreign mission trip -- will “rock [her] perspective on the world.”

After graduation she plans to continue swimming for fitness -- although she might take a break for a little while -- because she can’t imagine giving up the sport she has grown up with.

As Siverling reflects on her collegiate swimming career, she seems satisfied with her time at Penn State, saying that she is a different swimmer now than she was four years ago, thanks in large part to the support of her coaches and teammates. In her academic career, Siverling is thankful for the Schreyer Honors College, her honors adviser and the support network of peers within her major.

Graduation, Siverling said, will probably come sooner than she would like it to.

“I’m really looking forward to the next few months,” Siverling said. “A lot to miss, but a lot to look forward to, which is a good combination to have.”

  • Penn State Swimmers form an arch for Megan Siverling on senior day 2015

    Penn State swimmers form an arch for Megan Siverling as the Nittany Lion senior competed in her final home meet earlier this year. 

    IMAGE: Melanie Kipp
Last Updated March 18, 2015