What would you place the odds at for a high school student whose high school doesn't have a swimming team to get a full scholarship to the University of North Carolina as a swimmer? You might not figure they would be too great, but Madison Burns made it happen. The Northwestern senior signed a letter of intent to attend the University of North Carolina recently and is thrilled with the opportunity.
"I really liked their team and training wise, I could see myself training there," said Burns of her decision. "I also really liked the coaches and the campus is beautiful."
Indiana and Florida were also in the running for Burns and she initially had a visit to Virginia scheduled as well, but canceled that trip after deciding on North Carolina.
So just how did Burns get noticed by so many top-flight schools? Burns swam with the Parkland Aquatic Club (PAAC), which is part of USA Swimming, the governing body for competitive swimming in the United States. Since Northwestern doesn't have a swim team, Burns entered Districts last season as an independent and came away with wins in the 200 individual medley and the 100 breaststroke, advancing her to the state competition. Burns went on to not only win gold in both events at the state level, but set a new state record of 2:00.48 in the 200 IM.
While her official scholastic swimming career really only lasted one season, Burns found it to be worth her time. "I wasn't sure if I was ever going to do high school because of having to do it independently, but I knew someone else who had done that," said Burns. "Now, I'm glad that I did it. It was a lot of fun and a great experience."
Burns could swim again this season in high school districts, but currently has no plans to do that and will instead continue to swim with PAAC and focus on her workouts, which she does for three or four hours a day, generally at least six days a week.
Certainly, Burns is looking forward to her collegiate swimming career, but before that, she'll take part in the Olympic Trials this June in Omaha, Nebraska.
When she first started swimming, Burns didn't envision herself as an Olympian, but her family certainly held out hopes. Her proud grandfather smiled and admitted "I did" when Burns was asked about early Olympic dreams. Currently, Burns is qualified for the 200 IM and hopes to also qualify for the 400 IM before she heads off to Omaha.
To her credit, Burns never let the fact that she didn't have an official high school swim team to call her own stand in her way. She also never truly had concerns that she wouldn't get noticed by colleges because of that obstacle. "I wasn't sure that I would ever do high school swimming because of that, but I never really worried about that. I just thought I would work hard and see how it all went."
While she'll need to limit her major at some point, Burns knows that she'll be majoring in Business at UNC and believes she may most likely focus on Business Management.
Burns will be joining a swim team that finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 14th in the NCAA Championships last season. Their current season just got underway and North Carolina swimmers swept the Performers of the Week honors from the ACC for their performances in a win over Maryland.