You’re never too old to give up on something that you love. Despite being out of the college swimming circuit for a couple years, Lauren Hines wasn’t ready to hang up her goggles. She was determined to keep training, even if she wasn’t sure what she was training for. Her training paid off as she qualified for her second U.S. Olympic Trials a couple weeks ago.
Following graduation in 2013, Hines started student teaching as she wanted to pursue elementary education. She also got into coaching where she worked part-time at Randolph-Macon College.
“I really enjoyed coaching and giving back to the sport, but for me I enjoyed coaching those kids and making a difference, and being a part of that,” said Hines. “At the same time, I felt like a part of me was missing because I, myself, wasn’t working towards something. So I got back in the water.”
When Hines got back into her training routine she would get questions about what she was training for, but at the time there really was no end goal, it was more about doing something that she enjoyed.
Hines uses her time in the pool as almost an escape. “For me, swimming helps me balance everything else in my life,” she said. “It’s honestly stress relief even though it’s stressful to be swimming.”
She took on a challenge out of the pool by becoming a sixth grade math teacher in a lower income area of Chesterfield County. She had to come up with ways to get her students to enjoy math. As a new teacher, she wanted to teach in a fun and engaging way so she decided to incorporate a lot of computers and other 21st century skill-based technology.
Hines’ techniques were successful as more than 70 percent of her students passed their end-of-year exams over the past two years, which she credits to being back in the pool.
“I think over this past year with swimming because I’ve been able to get myself back in shape I’ve started to feel like my coaching and my teaching has all come together,” she said.
As a teacher, Hines, along with former teammate Mali Kobelja, train every morning with their former coach Matt Barany in the Weinstein Center.
“I don’t think I would be training anymore if it weren’t for Matt,” Hines said. “We’ve had really big ups and really big downs between the two of us but I don’t think anyone has ever understood me as much as he does, as an athlete and a person.”
“Swimming has completely changed me. In college it was more team dynamic and team focused to see how we can accomplish our goal of winning an Atlantic 10 title, and I think that was the hardest switch for me personally. I was trying to figure out what I was doing in this sport. Am I just doing it to just get in shape or am I doing it because I want to go to Trials again? At first it was hard to realize that the person I am now is different than the person I was in college.”
In 2012, Hines qualified for the Trials in both the 100m and 200m backstroke events.
“I had an awesome experience [at the 2012 Trials]. It takes so long to take it all in. You walk out onto the pool deck, and there’s so many spectators – you’ve never seen so many spectators watching you, and they are just so loud. You’re swimming at a meet where people are going to be Olympians. It’s a little overwhelming I think,” she said.
Just three weeks ago, Hines qualified for the second time in the 100m back. She was competing in the 200m race, where she knew they were doing intermediate splits – they timed the first 100m of the race for qualifying times and that’s where she made her cut to head to Omaha.
“I didn’t even know I had qualified until I finished the 200,” Hines laughed. “At first I was in shock because I had no idea I had qualified. I zone out when I’m swimming, but everyone knew I was going for the cut and apparently everyone at the pool was cheering me along. At the 100, I touched and I felt awful. It felt like the worst race, I wasn’t catching water, I was moving slow, and I didn’t even turn to see my time on the scoreboard I just kept going. When I got out, I didn’t even ask for my split, but the timer told me I went 0.28, you got it. I was really excited. It was one of those things where you’re working really hard for something and you don’t know if its going to happen and when it suddenly happens, it’s almost completely unexpected.”
“It’s just an honor to compete in the same pool as those who will compete in the Olympics, and be at that meet in general. I’m 26, qualifying the first time was an amazing and huge opportunity for me,” she said. “I’m so thankful for the University for letting me come to school and for Matt and Erin for still allowing me to still be a part of the team. It is kind of crazy to have me and Mali to just say we just really want to swim.”
Hines will join current Spider and rising junior Erin Barry, along with incoming freshman Hannah Gouger out in Omaha next week for the Olympic Trials. Hines and Gouger will both compete in the 100m backstroke while Barry will race in the 200m breaststroke.
“It shows that no matter what age you are or where you’re at in your life you can work towards anything. It’s amazing to all be connected in that way as a part of the University and I’m excited to see how they race.”