TOWSON, Md. - Just as Ray Lewis was born to tackle and Lady Gaga was born to make questionable fashion choices, Melanie Rowland was born to swim.
No, really. Rowland is inextricably bound to the pool. You might even say swimming is in Rowland’s DNA.
Need proof? Well, consider that her parents told Rowland a fib when she was a little girl just so she wouldn’t spend so much time in the pool before she was too young.
For that matter, Rowland, a junior from Evanston, Ill., is the offspring of a father who swam competitively at Kansas and a mother who swam in college in Australia, where swimming is as much as a pastime there as football is here.
So, you see, Rowland couldn’t have avoided splashing in the pool if she wanted to.
“As soon as I finished swim lessons when I was four or five, I was like, ‘I want to do this all the time,” said Rowland with a laugh. “They (my parents) let it sit for a while.”
It’s a good thing for Towson and head swimming coach Pat Mead that Rowland got her way and was able to swim competitively, as she has become a cornerstone of the Tiger attack.
Rowland, a team captain, led a contingent of seven Towson swimmers in last week’s U.S. Winter Nationals in Austin, Texas.
Rowland finished second in the final C heat of the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 2:00.10, just ahead of teammate and fellow junior Kendall Towe (2:02.75), who finished seventh and sophomore Victoria Oslund (2:02.80), who placed eighth.
Meanwhile, juniors Kaitlin Burke (16:32.95) and Cassie Sorna (16:40.53) finished 14th and 17th, respectively, in the 1,650-yard freestyle, earning three points for Towson in team standings.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a good experience,” said Rowland.
It’s one of a number of good experiences Rowland has had at Towson. While she looked at Northwestern, the Big Ten school in her backyard, Rowland said Mead’s recruiting pitch convinced her that she could get strong academics and solid competition somewhere other than home, albeit a time zone away.
“One of the first things he (Mead) said to me on the phone was ‘At Towson, we take swimming and school very seriously,’” said Rowland.
“That kind of caught me off guard because that’s exactly what I was looking for, but what I hadn’t really heard from the other coaches.”
“I guess the reason I came out here was that they took swimming very seriously, but they also took academics very seriously. They had high standards for both of them, which really attracted me to the program.”
Rowland’s performance in Austin continued a remarkable few months, which included her qualifying for the United States Olympic team trials in Omaha, Neb., earlier this year.
She spent the summer training at Towson under Mead’s tutelage and qualified for the trials just three weeks before the meet, fulfilling a goal she set for herself at 13.
“That was just amazing to be able to swim with such high caliber athletes at such an incredible meet,” said Rowland.
Though she didn’t make it to the squad that competed in London, Rowland, the only woman Towson has had make a US Olympic team trial, said the experience should pay dividends.
“Walking away from that meet, I was more motivated than ever to try to make it back to that kind of level (of competition),” she said.
That would be the NCAA championships in Indianapolis in March. Of course, the team will first have to get through the Colonial Athletic Association championships in February, but the team’s goal is to get six Towson swimmers to Hoosier Land.
And it goes without saying that someone with swimming so engrained in her DNA figures to be one of those six.
“That’s the plan,” said Rowland.