Three Mount Saint Mary College grads of the Women's Swimming team truly lived up to the phrase "student-athletes" by excelling in their sport and being accepted into doctorate programs before even graduating from the Mount.
Sophia Reinhardt of Port Ewen, N.Y., Shayla McCarroll of Clifton Park, N.Y., and Daley O'Keefe of Marlborough, Conn. graduated from Mount Saint Mary College on Saturday, May 22 and will begin graduate school shortly.
In the pool, the trio of swimmers made successful marks at Mount Saint Mary College, helping the Knights to three straight runner-up finishes at the Skyline Conference Championship Meet. McCarroll earned Second Team All-Conference accolades in both the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events and won the 200-yard backstroke in 2019, on her way to being named First Team All-League in the event.
O'Keefe and Reinhardt also had impressive careers in the pool for the Knights, with O'Keefe posting seven top-10 finishes at the Skyline Conference Championship over a three-year career. O'Keefe's best finish at the championship came with third place showings in the 1,000-yard freestyle in both 2018 and 2019, before COVID-19 concerns cancelled her 2020 season.
Reinhardt has scored five top-10 finishes for the Mount at the Skyline Conference Championship. Her career best finish for the Knights was in the 200-yard backstroke in 2019.
Outside of the pool, the women were just as successful, with each swimmer landing on the Skyline Conference Academic Honor Roll three times.
McCarroll, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the Mount, will begin pursuing her doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Utica College starting June 21.
"I've always known I wanted to be a physical therapist," she explained. "I was an athlete [and] I got hurt and had to go to physical therapy. My mom is a physical therapist, and I felt like it was just the best decision to go right into it."
McCarroll believes that Mount Saint Mary College has prepared her for the next step in her academic career by enhancing her already strong work ethic: "I've always had a strong work ethic, but Mount Saint Mary has made that grow," she said.
Being a student-athlete at the Mount gave McCarroll some advantages she used in the journey to her doctorate degree program.
"It taught me time management, because you have to juggle early morning practices and school work," McCarroll explained. "It taught me that when you get work, just do it. Don't wait."
Like McCarroll, O'Keefe will begin her doctorate degree work not long after her graduation from Mount Saint Mary College. O'Keefe, who chose the Mount for both its five-year and swimming programs, graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Biology and a Master's in Education while also minoring in Hispanic Studies. She will begin her doctorate degree work in August at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.
When asked how the Mount has prepared her for this next step, O'Keefe said, "The science classes are definitely tough here, but the professors are easy to talk to and willing to help. I'm going to another small school like this, so I know it's going to be a similar experience."
O'Keefe, who wants to become a college professor, believes being a student-athlete has prepared her well for her doctorate journey starting in August. She recalls that being able to weave practice (including doubles) and meets into her class schedule "forced [me] to learn how to manage my time."
Reinhardt was also part of the five-year program at the Mount and had been recruited to swim for the Knights out of high school. She completed the five-year track in only four years and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and a Master of Science degree in Adolescent Education/Special Education. She will begin work on a Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics Education at Columbia University Teachers College in the Fall of 2021.
Like O'Keefe, her goal is also to become a college professor. She believes that the time management skills she acquired being a collegiate student-athlete will serve her well moving forward.
"As a student-athlete in a sport that competes in both semesters, a majority of our time in school we have to balance everything," said Reinhardt. "It helps you create a schedule to be a productive college student and won't allow you to fall behind."
All three were also part of the Mount's first ever class of Chi Alpha Sigma, the first and only National Honor Society for Student-Athletes. To earn induction to the Chi Alpha Sigma, a student-athlete must be at least a junior academically and hold a 3.4 grade point average or better.
"I think it's important to recognize, because I think people who can do both require a different skill set," Reinhardt explained. "If you weren't prepared to be passionate about both your school work and your sport, you would fall behind in one of them."
O'Keefe echoed that sentiment: "Being at a Division III school, that's what you're looking at – academics and athletics. Being able to bring a connection between the two of them is really amazing."
McCarroll added, "I personally feel honored to be inducted. Sometimes people don't understand how much hard work it takes to excel in both [academics and athletics]."
As they began charting their own courses, the three swimmers reflected on how each of them played a role in the process of the other two, whether it was done by being a friend, roommate, classmate, or teammate.
"Daley was my number one sounding board," McCarroll recalls. "I was trying to decide between two different schools and asking what are the pros of this school, what are the cons? That was really helpful."
"It's very different fields we are all going in, but we were definitely there every step of the way checking in on each other," noted Reinhardt.
O'Keefe lives with McCarroll and was in the five-year program with Reinhardt.
"We're all really close and we're all up there when it comes to academics," she explained. "It's just something about this class that we're all really motivated to do well in everything that we do."