Swimmer Soleil Phan qualifies for NCAA Championships

Junior Soleil Phan, specializing in freestyle and butterfly, has qualified for several relay and individual events in the NCAA Championships in March. (credit: Jonathan Leung/Assistant Photo Editor) Junior Soleil Phan, specializing in freestyle and butterfly, has qualified for several relay and individual events in the NCAA Championships in March. (credit: Jonathan Leung/Assistant Photo Editor)

Junior professional writing major Soleil Phan has made a splash as one of Carnegie Mellon’s top female swimmers on the varsity swimming and diving team.

Phan most recently competed at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships at the University of Chicago, where she placed second in the 200-meter individual medley (IM) and helped lead her 400-meter relay team to a second-place finish. Phan’s performance in the 200-yard medley relay assisted her team to a first-place finish and a University of Chicago pool record.

Phan also broke her own school record in the 100-yard butterfly during the preliminaries after finishing in 56.79 seconds. She finished the championship heat in fourth and provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships. Phan also qualified for NCAAs in the the 200-yard butterfly and helped lead a 800-yard freestyle relay to meet the qualification time as well.

Phan specializes in the freestyle and butterfly events. She said that her biggest accomplishment this season was “finally breaking 57:00 in the 100 butterfly,” which she did at the Kenyon Total Performance Invitational at Kenyon College on Nov. 30, also breaking her own school record. Phan was victorious numerous times at invitational meets throughout the season.

These accomplishments only add to Phan’s list of honors, including finishing first on the team last year in four different events and being named All-America Honorable Mention her first year, UAA Champion in 2011 in the 100-yard butterfly, and All-UAA second team in the 200-meter relay that same year. Also in 2011, Phan competed in seven events in the NCAA Championships. “Making NCAAs my freshman year was one of the best experiences I’ve had as a swimmer,” Phan said.

Phan hopes to repeat that experience this year and make NCAAs both individually and on relays. Coming into the season, she knew that “this year was going to be a faster field, so giving a 110 percent effort at every practice was one of my goals that I knew could help get me there.”

Phan’s talents, ambition, and positive outlook are recognized by her fellow swimmers.

“Soleil is one of the hardest workers and consistent performers on our team, and her cheerful attitude makes it such a pleasure to swim with her,” said junior Wesley Kim.
Sophomore Wendy Liu said, “Soleil has a very positive presence on the team and leads the team both through example and voice. Not only is she an awesome swimmer, but [she is also] an incredibly focused and fantastic person.”

Phan’s focus is also driven by her teammates. “I think this year our team has trained faster than any other year,” she said.

But the Tartan swim team is not all about the rivalry and races in the pool. Phan emphasized that the team is “so close that we’re like a family. The support that I’ve seen this group give each other is unlike any other,” she said. “We hold each other accountable for everything both in and out of the pool.”

From large team dinners to coach Matt Kinney quoting Mean Girls, Phan said she “can’t imagine swimming without the team.”

Phan has been swimming competitively since she was nine years old. “My favorite part is being able to compete both individually and for your team. I’ve been swimming for more than half my life, so I couldn’t imagine life without it,” she said.

When Phan is not gliding through the water like a sailfish, she can often be found shopping or designing. She hopes to pursue her love for design as a future career.

“Not only is [Soleil] an awesome swimmer and person, but she’s also incredibly artsy and designs apparel,” Liu said. “She also takes a lot of pictures for the team.”

For now, Phan sets her sights on the national meet on March 20. Although she cringes as meet announcers (and even a few joking teammates) mispronounce her name “So-leeeeeel,” she hopes to hear her name be called as she is proclaimed a NCAA champion.