BRIDGEWATER, Va. - Last season, the Bridgewater College women's swim team boasted three All-ODAC swimmers in Kelley Hilliker, Emma Daw, and Rachael King. The three swimmers, in addition to now sophomore Kaitlyn Hilliker, were all home-schooled before entering the Bridgewater program.
"I'd never really thought about it as like 'we're all homeschooled and we're all having success at college', but I guess it is pretty cool and we all had the advantage of being home-schooled that made it easier for us to fit athletics into our schedule," said Kelley, the older of Hilliker sisters.
While Kelley, a two-time All-ODAC second team selection, is in her senior season, King and Kaitlyn Hilliker as just sophomores that have started the season off strong. Junior Daw, who is currently finishing up a semester abroad before returning to the team in January, rounds out the homeschool contingent. She is also a two-time All-ODAC selection.
"I do think one of the misconceptions about homeschooling is that we can do whatever we want whenever we want," said Kelley. "But I do think it still allowed us to say we are going to meet on Friday afternoon, let's plan that and leave fifteen minutes early. We could fit more in and get more out having the tiniest bit of flexibility."
That flexibility allowed King to have more control over her schedule.
"I took classes on Tuesday and Thursday and had morning practice Tuesday and Thursday, but I had 45 minutes between practice and my class to get breakfast, get dressed, go to class."
The nature of the sport also was conducive to the swimmers success as they practiced every day of the week, sometimes more than once.
"We didn't swim with a specific high school...but they have USA Swimming teams or what a lot of people call club teams that we all participated in," Kelley stated. "I do think we had somewhat of an advantage because swimming was so important to Kaitlyn and I so it was important to our parents too."
The sport was their main escape from school and provided a chance to interact with teammates and friends. Since they did not participate in traditional high school activities, like clubs, practice was the part of the day they looked forward to and focused their energy on.
"Other than school, swim was our main priority that we focused on," said Kaitlyn. "Going to practice was the highlight of our day."
King notes that swim was an ideal sport for her to participate in since she did not have a high school team to join.
"There are not a lot of homeschool sports. It would have been really hard for me to play volleyball or softball. I could get into swimming because it didn't have to be affiliated with a school. I could schedule my school around my practice."
Even though King and the two Hilliker's have found success under a common denominator, they are quick to point out their teammates successes as well.
"We have great swimmers on the team who were not homeschooled. It's not just us."
All four of the swimmers have etched their names into the Bridgewater women's swimming record book and have set some of the top times in the ODAC this season.
The team is currently 4-0 in dual meets. They return to action following the New Year as they host Roanoke on January 11.