Kenyon College swimmer Haley Townsend has made a huge splash not only in the pool but in the classroom and on campus as well.

A 2012 Center Grove High School graduate, Townsend, who graduated from Kenyon in May, was named the winner of the North Coast Athletic Conference’s 2016 Pam Smith Award on July 13.

The NCAC award recognizes one female senior who distinguished herself throughout her collegiate career in the areas of academic achievement, athletics excellence, service and leadership.

As the recipient of the award, Townsend will be the conference’s nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

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“I was very surprised when I was Kenyon’s nominee,” Townsend said.

She was even more surprised when she learned she won the conference honor.

“It was on Facebook and other people told me about it,” Townsend said.

Townsend and her teammates finished fifth in the 400-yard medley relay in the 2016 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships.

The four-year NCAA qualifier had a dozen career top 10 finishes in national championship competition — most memorable was winning the 2013 event title as a freshman on the 400-yard medley relay team.

That Kenyon quartet still holds the national record time of 3:40.13, with Townsend swimming the freestyle leg. In additional to that mark, Townsend has her name in the Kenyon record book for the 400-yard freestyle relay (3:22.47) and the 800-yard freestyle relay (7:20.84).

“Haley is a spectacular person who, through her every action, makes those around her better,” Kenyon coach Jess Book stated in the release.

“I’m honored to have had the chance to coach her. In her four years at Kenyon she made this team better — both in the water with her performances, and even more importantly in the locker room with her strength of character.”

Townsend graduated with a degree in international studies.

Townsend, who graduated summa cum laude with a 3.95 grade-point average, has accepted a J. William Fulbright Fellowship to work as an English teaching assistant in Turkey in mid-September for nine months.

Townsend said she will monitor the situation in Turkey, where a coup was attempted last week.

“Right now I’m going, but if something happens in the next two months that makes me uncomfortable, perhaps not,” Townsend said.

During the fall semester of her junior year, she spent a semester in Morocco, where she taught English.

“I actually joined a swim team while I was abroad in Morocco, so I was there for four months,” she said.

Townsend never knew much about Kenyon until a coach recommended she look at a summer swim camp.

“I thought the school was interesting, it was beautiful, the pool looked great and the coach was super nice,” Townsend said. “So I scheduled a visit in the fall, and it was easily my favorite.”

Townsend said she wanted to go to an established program.

Kenyon women’s team has been runner-up in the NCAA Division III Championships three of the past four seasons.

“What sold me is at Kenyon, and probably at a lot of Division III swimming schools, it balances academics, athletics and personal life really well,” Townsend said. “I found a lot of synergy through that.

“I really wanted to push myself academically as well as in the pool, and it worked out.”

Townsend has been drawn to learning about the Middle East after her father, Todd’s, Indiana National Guard unit was deployed in 2008 to Iraq and Kuwait for a year.

“At that point my world opened up and I realized I knew nothing about developments in other parts of the world,” Townsend said. “I was only an eighth-grader and freshman in high school, but it was pretty eye-opening.

“By the time I got to Kenyon I still had the motivation to expand my boundaries outside of Indiana.”

Haley Townsend pullout

Name: Haley Townsend

Age: 22

School activities: Nominated to the Senior Class Committee, serving as a counselor for first-year students during freshman orientation and volunteering in the Student Accessibility and Support Services Office. Worked with the Middle East Student Association, the Environmental Campus Organization and the Kenyon Outdoors Club. In addition, she participated in programs like Step UP!, Girls and Women in Sports Day, Emerging Leaders Institute and Relay for Life.

Favorite class: Economics of oil and natural gas

Career plans: “I’m definitely drawn to the Middle East as a region. Not so sure about policy. I tried that out last summer and didn’t really work out (as intern for National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations and the Middle East Policy Council). I’m leaning towards energy, not necessarily oil. I’ve really taken an interest in solar energy and its development in the Middle East and the United States. Right now I’m looking to get a master’s in energy-related studies.”

Favorite way to relax: Reading and outdoor activities

Author photo
Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.