Jackson High School graduate Nicole Limberg smiles during an event with the Rice University swim team. (Photo courtesy Rice University)

Jackson High School graduate Nicole Limberg smiles during an event with the Rice University swim team. (Photo courtesy Rice University)

Jackson High School alum thrives in pool despite pandemic

Nicole Limberg has been able to swim in two meets at Rice University, and she’s posted impressive times.

Nicole Limberg knows a little something about disruption to her training regimen.

The Jackson High School graduate, now a member of the Rice University women’s swim team in Houston, spent more than a month out of the pool during the summer between her sophomore and junior years at Rice, as she tried to regain her focus on swimming.

So while the coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with her senior season, she at least had an idea of what that disruption would feel like — as well as the fact that those type of disruptions can be overcome.

Limberg is thriving in the pool, despite the uncertainty the pandemic has cast upon her senior season, and she’s doing her best to make the best of a difficult situation.

”It’s been mixed emotions,” Limberg, who’s back home in Mill Creek for the holidays, said about her unusual senior season. “It can be frustrating, but at the same time I feel really lucky to be able to swim, knowing I have club teammates at other colleges who have had their seasons canceled. Knowing I can still swim is motivating.”

Limberg, who was The Herald’s 2017 Kristi Bartz Memorial Girls Athlete of the Year after a dominating senior season at Jackson, has been a standout for the Owls. Last season a junior she was named second-team All-Conference USA in the 200-yard medley relay and third-team all-conference in the 200 breaststroke and the 400 medley relay.

This season, despite competing in just two meets — Rice has an outdoor pool, which allows the Owls to compete — Limberg owns the third-best time in Conference USA in the 100 breaststroke (1 minute, 3.98 seconds), the fourth-best time in the 200 breast (2:20.51) and the fifth-best time in the 200 individual medley (2:06.91). Her personal best in the 200 breast (2:14.69) is the third-fastest in school history, and her personal best in the 100 breast (1:02.02) is fourth-fastest.

“I think in general I’ve been happy (with how I’ve performed),” Limberg said about her senior season. “I’ve been a little surprised with my times. The pandemic and not being able to train as much can really make you question how you are physically. But I’ve been impressed with my times in the breaststroke and the 200 IM.”

Having gone through something similar before has helped.

Limberg had a disappointing sophomore season at Rice, and the primary reason for that was because she was she was being not just a college athlete, but pursuing the full college student experience. That included volunteering at a children’s hospital — Limberg is a pre-med major — being a chemistry tutor and getting involved in various school clubs.

“My sophomore year I was passionate about being a college student,” Limberg said. “There were a lot of other things I wanted to be a part of and I really enjoyed that aspect. There was a lot of learning about how to balance extracurriculars with academics and athletics, and my times were bad and I didn’t have the same passion for swimming I had before.”

So Limberg took about a month-and-a-half off from the pool that summer to regroup and reassess.

“It wasn’t really time management, but separating all the actions and emotions from the extracurriculars so I could focus on swimming when it was time for practice and meets,” Limberg explained. “It can be scary taking those two months off, but I think it helped me regain my love for swimming. And knowing I had such a bad sophomore year I wanted to be a better teammate and athlete as a junior.”

Not only did it lead to a strong junior season, it prepared her for what was to come. When the pandemic hit it March it cut off the tail end of Rice’s season, and restrictions kept Limberg out of the pool until May. Her time in the water was limited through the summer, both because of the pandemic and because of her summer job teaching chemistry to eighth graders.

“Usually the summer is when you work really hard, it’s a big part of the training cycle,” Limberg said. “I think this kind of shows that while college swimming is about being physically there, at the same time there are other factors that go into how well you swim. You have to trust in the practices and what you’ve done, and you also have to have fun with it. This season hasn’t been as stressful, we all go into meets excited and feeling fortunate that we’re able to race, and I think my teammates have been surprised with their times as well.”

Rice has organized four more meets for January and February, and Limberg is hoping the Conference USA Championships will take place as scheduled on Feb. 24-27 in Atlanta. Although the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to swimmers, Limberg is committed to attending medical school, so she knows this will be the conclusion of her collegiate swimming career.

But Limberg isn’t regretting that her final year has seen so much disruption.

“So far my senior year has still been extremely fun and rewarding. It hasn’t been a waste of time.”

If you have an idea for a community sports story, email Nick Patterson at npatterson@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Glacier Peak High School graduate Matt King was selected to the U.S. Olympic team in men’s swimming. King was selected as a member of the 400 freestyle relay team. (Matt Riley / University of Virginia athletic communications)
Glacier Peak grad Matt King headed to the Olympics

King was selected in men’s swimming as a member of the 400-meter freestyle relay team.

Glacier Peak’s Karsten Sweum (10) poses for a portrait as The Herald's All-Area Baseball Player of the Year at Glacier Peak High School on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 in Snohomish, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2024 Baseball Player of the Year: Glacier Peak’s Karsten Sweum

The smoke-throwing senior left-handed pitcher struck out more than two batters per inning.

Lake Stevens’ Trey Nance deals early in the game during a playoff loss to Bothell on Saturday, May 4, 2024, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2024 All-Area baseball team

Editor’s note: The Player of the Year and All-Area teams were chosen… Continue reading

Glacier Peak grad King comes up just short in Olympic bid

King placed third in the men’s 50 freestyle at U.S. Olympic trials, but still could qualify in a relay.

Shorewood senior Isaak Abraham poses for a portrait as The Herald's Boys Soccer Player of the Year at Shorewood High School on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Shoreline, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2024 Boys Soccer Player of the Year: Shorewood’s Isaak Abraham

The Stormrays senior forward led Shorewood to Wesco 3A/2A and Class 3A District 1 titles.

Everett’s J’aiden Cranwell-Meneses leaves a Monroe defender in the dirt while advancing the ball during a 3A District soccer match on Thursday, May 2, 2024, at Monroe High School in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2024 All-Area boys soccer team

Editor’s note: The Player of the Year and All-Area teams were chosen… Continue reading

Lake Stevens High School graduate Taylor Roe competes for Oklahoma State University at the 2024 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on June 8 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University)
Taylor Roe competes at the Olympic trials this weekend

Now that the Lake Stevens H.S. graduate’s decorated college running career is done, the pro ranks are next.

Soccer legends to be part of local Copa America watch party

Pete Fewing, Marcus Hahnemann will be on hand at Angel of the Winds Arena for next Thursday’s U.S. game.

Mukilteo’s Beard places second in hammer at U20 nationals

The King’s High School sophomore has a chance to represent the U.S. at U20 worlds.

Sounders complete purchase of NWSL’s Seattle Reign

Now both of Seattle’s pro soccer teams are under the umbrella of one ownership group.

Women’s PGA Championship offers fans chance to watch and learn

The women’s golf major tournament comes to Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish beginning Thursday.

Logan Gilbert of the Seattle Mariners throws a pitch during the second inning against the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park on June 16, 2024, in Seattle, Washington. (Alika Jenner / Getty Images)
Mariners week: Gilbert’s brilliance lifts Seattle to sweep

Seattle’s 8 1/2-game lead in the AL West is its largest since the 2001 season.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.