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Vavra leaves mark on ESU swimming

  • photo courtesy of East Stroudsburg University Sami Vavra competes in the breast stroke for East Stroudsburg University.
    photo courtesy of East Stroudsburg University Sami Vavra competes in the breast stroke for East Stroudsburg University.
Published April 30. 2013 05:04PM

Another chapter is in the books for Panther Valley graduate Sami Vavra, as she recently completed her swimming career at East Stroudsburg University and in the process, made an indellible mark on the record books.

"Sami Vavra," "Swimming," and "Success" are three words that fit together on a page when talking about the student-athlete's accomplishments over the course of her career in the pool.

After making her mark on Panther Valley swim history, the Warrior senior initially moved on to further her education and sports career at West Viriginia University. That's when she decided to make the move to a more localized venue to pursue her future goals.

"After deciding to transfer from West Virginia, East Stroudsburg swimming welcomed me with open arms," Vavra said. "I had a tough time adjusting to the college swimming lifestyle, but the team and coaches made me feel very comfortable and made the transition much easier. I'm glad I was able to finish off my swimming career at ESU and am thankful for many opportunities it has given me."

In 2010-11, the initial season as a Warrior swimmer, Vavra dove right into the challenge, consistently earning top finishes and recording remarkable times.

"Competition at ESU wasn't nearly as fierce as a Division I program, but there were always people at practices and meets to push me," she continued. "I think my transition was made so easy for me because of my coach (Lisa Pizzuto). She is very understanding and looks to help us become not just better swimmers, but better people."

The transition for Vavra was difficult enough, but she also had to deal with an injury.

"After deciding to get shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff in my shoulder, I had a tough time getting back to the times I was swimming in high school," she remembers. "Eventually, though, I did."

At the completion of her career at East Stroudsburg, Vavra's name is on seven of the 14 events, when it comes to the top ten times in the history of ESU swimming. She holds the top time in the 100 Breast with a time of 1:06.09, and is second in the 200 Breast, a little over a second slower than the top time. She is in the top ten in the 50 and 100 Free, the 100 and 200 Back, and the 200 IM.

"It feels good to know that I left my mark on ESU swimming and I'm hoping that my records stand for quite some time," Vavra mentioned. "I think it was just a matter of hard work and endless hours of training. As much as I hated practice, it obviously made me better."

While in high school, the Vavra name was synonymous with Panther Valley swimming, as Sami's two sisters Allysa and Karoline were also a part of highly successful teams. Older sister Allysa went on to have an outstanding career at Division I Indiana University while younger sister Karoline eventually joined Sami on the Warriors' roster.

"I really enjoyed training with Karoline and I can't believe I'm actually admitting that," she joked. "I think during our time together at ESU, we have definitely become closer than we were when lived in the same house together for 18 years. I tried my best to push her as much as I could while I was around and hopefully, she doesn't miss me too much over the next two years."

Speaking of those training sessions, the Warriors put in the hard work by doing plenty of different methods of training.

"Every Monday through Saturday, for roughly two or three hours in the afternoon, we would practice," Vavra recalls. "A few days a week, we would do dry land workouts at six in the morning. Coach's practices were aimed towards sprinting more than distance, and I liked that about them. Also, during the summers, even though I wasn't swimming, my mom made sure I was up early every morning to go running with her and I think that made me a lot better."

When looking back on the career she had, Vavra wants to remember a few things.

"I think the one thing I will remember is my fifth place finish at the PSAC (Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference) championships at the end of this past season," she said. "It was one of the highest finishes of anyone ever in ESU history, and definitely the highest finish ever for a breast stroker."

As with any outstanding athlete, there is a legacy left behind, and when asked what hers would like to be, she replied, "I think mostly, I'd tell ESU underclassmen or student athletes to just enjoy themselves and their college years. It goes by way too quickly so don't take it too seriously. It's only a part of your life, not your whole life."

Next up on Vavra's schedule of challenges is graduate school, where she plans to pursue her master's degree in sports psychology.

"Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to help other athletes like myself, but for now, I'm just trying to enjoy life without swimming. Swimming has been great to me for 17 years, but now it's time for something new."

Whatever that challenge is, it's safe to assume this Vavra will leave her mark upon it.

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