While USJ does not have a swimming program, the school is represented by student-athletes in regional and state competition.

Whisenant Takes Gold in Swimming at State

Eric Whisenant

Eric Whisenant has been swimming competitively for nine years, but this year, he swam a race he won’t soon forget when he won first place in the 100 yard back at the 2016 TISCA Tennessee High School Swimming and Diving Championships. Eric completed his swim in 48.64 seconds, which qualified him as an All-American. He also placed fourth in the 200 yard free. His coach is Neal Rushing.

Eric says the high point in his career thus far was at the Southeastern Championship at age 12 where he made the Southeastern Zone team twice. He holds several team and meet records. At last year’s state high school meet, Eric placed seventh in both the 200 free and the 100 back. In addition to being an All-American, Eric is also an Academic All-American.

He says he enjoys his time in the pool. “I like swimming competitively because of the individual competition and camaraderie among the swimmers,” Eric says. “I also enjoy trying to perfect my races.”

Swimmers work hard to improve personal times

Eric Whisenant and Anjali Mahajan

As representatives of USJ, Anjali Mahajan and Eric Whisenant both competed in the recent Tennessee High School Championship Swim Meet.

Anjali, a freshman, and Eric, a sophomore, have been swimming together for many years, practicing at 5 a.m. before school, after school, and on the weekends.

“You definitely have to be dedicated,” said Anjali. “If you just miss a week, it takes a long time to get back where you were.”

Natasha Mahajan, Anjali’s mother, pointed out that many times, Eric and Anjali have had to give up social events in order to practice or travel to a meet. However, both of them have maintained a high level of commitment to the sport they love.

Whisenant began swimming when he was in first grade. His mother, Shannon, said that he always had a natural swimming ability.

“Many kids had trouble getting to the other side of the pool at their first meet, but Eric was always able to do that even at a young age,” she said.

Eric is now more than 6 feet tall, and though he did play basketball one year, his first love is swimming.

Shannon Whisenant, who is also USJ’s assistant director of college advising, said that USJ was always their first choice when looking for a school. As an educator, she said that finding a school with the most challenging curriculum was an important priority.

“We knew that USJ was ahead of other schools academically, and that Eric would be pushed and challenged.”

Eric plans to swim in college and is considering majoring in pre-med.

For both the Whisenants and the Mahajans, swimming is like a part-time job, but academics always come first.

Even though USJ has no swimming program, the decision to send their children to USJ has given their children an education and life skills that have been important to both families.

“USJ challenges the children and has taught them how to be independent,” said Natasha Mahajan.

Anjali, who has competitively swam since she was 6, said that the high school championship was probably the highlight of her swimming career so far.

From across the state, 129 schools competed in the championship. Eric not only beat his personal best times in the 200-yard freestyle and 100-yard backstroke, but he also placed seventh in the state. Anjali also beat her personal best time.

Doing that was the most important goal, Mahajan said. “Swimming is mainly competing against your own time. If there aren’t many people competing then you might win, so it’s more important to keep trying to beat your own time.”

She said that 1,600 swimmers made the cut in the last Olympics, but only a handful advanced to compete in the Olympics.

“Trying to beat the best is not the goal,” said Mahajan. “Trying to beat your best is.”

Swimmer finds success at Johns Hopkins

Nick Schmidt, USJ Class of 2009, was a standout swimmer for Johns Hopkins University and is completing his master’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology this spring at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The 17-time All-American, three-time swimming record holder for Johns Hopkins, and 2013 NCAA National Champion earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins last year in behavioral biology. Next year, he plans to enter the workforce as a consultant.

Nick attended USJ from Lower School through graduation. The school helped prepare him for success in college, Nick said. “The advisors were helpful and forced me to get out of my comfort zone.” Teacher Jane Ramer’s AP biology class was one of his favorites, and it helped him choose the educational path he took in college.

Nick also said USJ taught him how to balance athletics, a social life, and academics while meeting the challenges before him. The school gave him a great head start, he added.

“Hopkins is a very difficult environment academically, and USJ helped me jump into it instead of struggling to get my feet under me.”