05/12/12 — Bryce Connolly headed to Campbell

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Bryce Connolly headed to Campbell

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 12, 2012 11:56 PM

An interest in animal sciences caused Bryce Connolly to carefully research two in-state universities -- Campbell and UNC Wilmington.

Once the Charles B. Aycock senior completed her "homework," she decided that Campbell -- which is closer to home -- was the place to be. And the fact she'll get a chance to extend her swimming career helped her decision, too.

Connolly has committed to swim for the Camels next winter.

"Whenever I looked into the academics at Campbell, they had a lot of courses that I was interested in, especially biology because that's the field I want to go into," said Connolly, who eventually wants a veterinary degree. "I spoke to the coach (Pascal Molinard), who said I could swim there. I was definitely looking for academics, but swimming was a plus.

"I know a few of the girls who are on that team. I just felt like it would be a better environment for me my first couple of years in college. I just felt really comfortable there."

A North Carolina Scholar and member of the National Honor Society, Connolly joins a program that lost just four seniors to graduation. Campbell finished eighth in the season-ending Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association championship meet.

The Camels won a program-record 11 regular-season meets and the Highlander Invitational, which is hosted by Radford University.

Connolly led Aycock to its third consecutive Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference team title, and repeated as the ECC female swimmer-of-the-year this past winter. She won gold medals in the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke, and swam legs on the ECC champion 200 medley and 200 free relays.

Since the completion of the high school season, she's been working out daily to stay in shape. But she missed a week of workouts to complete an all-important senior project.

"A week out of the water ... a long time, so I'm having to work even harder to get back in shape with morning practices, afternoon practices on land and in the water," Connolly said.

Connolly isn't quite sure how she will balance academics and swimming. The team works out 20 hours a week, the maximum allowed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). She's extremely nervous about the workload in and out of the pool, but has the discipline to succeed.

And the competitive drive, too.

"If you put someone beside me (in the pool), I can go," Connolly said. "There will be a lot of girls at the same speed as me, so there will be a lot of competition and that will drive me to get better. I just need to listen to my coach, eat right and have my heart in it.

"If your heart is not in it, you're not going to do well."