Four years ago almost to the day Kristen Shickora walked out of Bucknell University's Kinney Natatorium after being named Swimmer of the Meet at the PIAA State Championships.
It was the final shining moment in a high school career that produced incredible success. A six-time state champion and a 10-time state medalist, Shickora was just a couple of months away from graduation. Having already accepted a swimming scholarship to the University of Georgia, the next step in her swimming career and in her life was on the horizon.
Now, just a couple of days away from the final collegiate meet of her career, Shickora is trying to figure out where the time has gone.
"I can't even begin to tell you how quickly my college career has gone by," said Shickora. "I can remember my first practice ever at Georgia and thinking I don't know how I'm going to make it through nine practices a week like this for four years ... and now I don't know what I'm going to do without them. These four years just flew by."
Shickora, who was highly recruited coming out of high school, said it seems like just yesterday that she was making her college decision.
"It was the hardest decision I ever made," she said. "I had a lot of great schools to choose between.
"It was also the best decision I ever made. Georgia has been a perfect fit for me. I couldn't be happier with how the last four years have gone."
A Marian High School graduate, Shickora swam without a team for most of her high school career. Since Marian doesn't have a swim team, Shickora did her training with the Atlantis Aquatic Club in the Lehigh Valley and swam at both the District 11 and State meets independently.
For all her individual success in high school, Shickora still missed the team aspect of being involved in sports.
"Before I made my final decision on what college to attend, I talked to some other swimmers from Pennsylvania who I knew had been members of the Georgia swim team," explained Shickora. "They talked a lot about the team atmosphere and how coach [Jack] Bauerle stressed team goals and team success. I knew that's exactly what I wanted."
Shickora has had plenty of individual success with the Bulldogs, including qualifying for the NCAA championships in each of her four years. She has had some of the best times in school history in three different events (100 backstroke, 3rd best; 200 backstroke, 4th best; and 200 IM, 10th best). She will head to Auburn University for this week's NCAA Championships as a second-team All-Southeast Conference selection and with times in both the 100 and 200 backstroke that are among the best in the nation this season. She will also compete in the 200 IM, the 200 medley relay and the 400 medley relay.
But it's obvious that Shickora is a lot more excited talking about Georgia's team accomplishments than her own individual accomplishments.
This past season, the Bulldogs, who are a perennial national power in women's swimming, won their third straight SEC championship and also extended a pair of long winning streaks. They have now won 77 straight home meets and 26 consecutive SEC meets.
"I came to Georgia with the attitude that I just wanted to do my best and have fun," said Shickora. "The goals I had were all teams goals and we have been able to reach almost all of them. We've won SEC championships and continued our streaks, but there is one goal still out there. We have a chance to reach that this week."
The goal Shickora is talking about is an NCAA team championship.
Beginning Thursday, the Bulldogs will have a chance to do something about that.
"This is going to be such an emotional meet for me," said Shickora. "Not only is this my final collegiate meet, but we've come so close to winning the NCAA team championship the last few years. Twice during my career, we've come in second place. This year, we really want the team championship."
And when the meet is over?
Shickora still has another year of studies at Georgia and has at least one more huge meet the United States Olympic Trials from June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb.
"I guess I'm not quite ready to let my swimming career end," said Shickora. "I've qualified for the Olympic Trials and I plan on taking part.
"The trials are one of those meets where dreams can come true. Not only for yourself, but for your teammates and your fiends. You're competing against the top swimmers in the nation for a chance to represent your country. It doesn't get much better than that."
Shickora can actually say the same thing about her decision to attend Georgia and her career with the Bulldogs it doesn't get much better than that.