After a week of training in balmy Delray Beach, Fla., Sweet Briar’s swim team has returned to campus and will take on Emory & Henry College in a coed meet with Hampden-Sydney College. The Vixens will also celebrate their two seniors, Claire Zak and Sarah Cahoone, before the meet gets underway at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Prothro Natatorium.
Zak, from St. Cloud, Fla., was a dual-sport athlete last year, running on the College’s inaugural cross-country team. This year, she is focusing exclusively on swimming — when it comes to athletics, that is. The classics and archaeology double major, with minors in religion and anthropology, is an Outdoor Program instructor and a resident advisor. A former admissions ambassador and tutor, Zak also serves as the Honors Program Student Council chairwoman and, for the second year, as the Student Athlete Advisory Committee president. She is a member of Tau Phi, BAM, Falls on Nose and the Sustainability Club, and serves as judicial chair for her class.
Zak exemplifies what being a Sweet Briar student-athlete is all about: Dedication, hard work and team spirit are as vital in the classroom as they are in the pool or on the field. Currently, Zak is working on her Senior Honors Thesis in archaeology on Iron Age ceramics of Tuzusai, Kazakhstan. Honored with the Mary K. Benedict Award last fall, she is a member of Eta Sigma Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta. Outside of the classroom, Zak followed her academic interests abroad, completing archaeological internships in Kazakhstan and Italy.
Much of it, she knows, would not be possible without the Sweet Briar community.
“I am going to miss the incredible support system from trusted faculty and classmates, as well as the countless friendships I have made,” Zak says when thinking about her graduation in May.
But there is also a lot to look forward to. Zak has applied to a number of graduate schools for maritime classical archaeology and is now eagerly awaiting those admissions decisions.
Meanwhile, classmate and fellow swimmer Sarah Cahoone already has a clear picture of her future, having recently accepted a job at NAVAIR. The engineering major and mathematics minor will be working as a mechanical engineer — an internship with the company last summer sealed the deal for the Sarasota, Fla., native. A member of Tau Phi, Cahoone, like Zak, values Sweet Briar’s close-knit community and the opportunities that come with it.
“The small class sizes at Sweet Briar allow for lots of discussion and hands-on learning,” Cahoone says. “Also, our athletics teams are small enough that, even though I hadn’t swum a full season since high school, I’m able to score points for my team.”
A shoulder injury prevented Cahoone from completing a full season at Sweet Briar, but this year, head coach Donna Hodgert and the College’s sports medicine team “worked to manage it so that she could come back and compete her senior season,” Hodgert says.
Cahoone looks forward to the home stretch, and the opportunity to swim an entire season as a college athlete.