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“Coming from a small town, I really had to fight to stay with the sport.” – Addison Peitz
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Addison Peitz is a rarity in Division II athletics.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney swimmer competes in a sport her high school didn’t even offer.
“It’s certainly a more difficult route than a kid coming out of Omaha and Lincoln that had a strong high school program,” said Becky O’Connell, who is in her first season as UNK’s swimming and diving coach.
Finding a talented collegiate swimmer from a small town isn’t unheard of – Peitz’s teammate Andrea Werner graduated from Oakland-Craig, another school without a swim team – but it’s definitely uncommon.
That’s what makes UNK such a unique place, O’Connell said. Students come to the university to get a great education, and they also have the opportunity to pursue other passions – no matter where they’re from.
Peitz grew up in Hartington, a community of about 1,500 residents in northeast Nebraska, and started swimming competitively at age 11 through a local summer recreation program. By high school, the sport was her main focus.
“I loved it,” Peitz said.
There was one problem, though. Hartington doesn’t have an indoor pool, so swimming is strictly a seasonal activity.
Peitz got past that obstacle by joining a USA Swimming club team in nearby Yankton, South Dakota, when she was 14.
“That’s when I really got going,” she said.
During the school year, Peitz raced from classes so she could make the afternoon practices in Yankton, a 30-minute drive from her hometown.
“As soon as the bell rang, my mom was in the car waiting for me,” she said.
As a senior, she drove herself to practice and sometimes spent the night with a teammate so she could swim again in the morning before returning to Hartington for school.
“Coming from a small town, I really had to fight to stay with the sport. It was a big commitment to make that jump to swimming year-round,” said Peitz, who also participated in volleyball, track, cross country and cheerleading during high school.
Although she loved being in the pool, the Hartington-Newcastle graduate never really had a goal of swimming in college. She came to UNK mainly for the recreation, park and tourism management program, with Division II athletics serving as an added bonus.
“The team was the right size for me to fit in,” Peitz said. “I really enjoy it here.”
The junior has excelled in the water, posting three times that rank in the top 10 in UNK history, and she’s a leader outside the pool.
“Addison brings a really great work ethic. She works hard and puts her all into every workout we do,” O’Connell said. “She’s also an awesome teammate.”
What’s particularly impressive, O’Connell said, is Peitz’s maturity.
That characteristic was strengthened by her time as a coach. The past two summers Peitz returned home to work with young swimmers in the programs where she got her start, and she traveled to California and Arizona last semester with a Yankton Swim Team member competing in Paralympic events.
“I absolutely love coaching and I’m ready to share my knowledge and pass it on,” she said.
Unfortunately for O’Connell, that means this is likely Peitz’s last season as a Loper. She plans to graduate in July or December – after completing an internship – and forgo her final year of eligibility.
Peitz wants to use her degree to pursue a career in recreation management and ensure many more youths have the same opportunity she had.
“That’s so important to me,” she said. “I want to carry that on and help kids reach what they can, whether it be swimming or some other activity.”
Events: 100- and 200-meter butterfly; 200- and 400-meter individual medley
Major: Recreation, park and tourism management
Academic honors: Academic All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 2017-18; UNK dean’s list
UNK all-time marks: Third in 200-meter butterfly (2:18.39); Sixth in 100 butterfly (1:01.82); Ninth in 400 individual medley (5:05.39)
The UNK swim team will compete Jan. 26 at the Western State Triangular in Gunnison, Colorado, and Feb. 13-16 at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Championships in Lewisville, Texas.