FREMONT – There must be something in the water at the Hawk-Bucci Natatorium.
For the fifth time in four years – and for the second time this week – the Fremont Ross swim programs are sending an athlete to compete at the Division I collegiate level.
After MaKennah Fitzgerald signed to Cleveland State on Monday, Thursday was Olivia DeRodes’ turn to sign her National Letter of Intent, chosing to continue her career at the University of Akron.
“I’ve known for a long time I wanted to be a swimmer and I wanted to take it to the next level and it feels so good to have it done and know where I’m going and be able to focus on my senior year without having to worry about where I’m going or what I’m doing,” she said.
DeRodes had no shortage of options to continue her career. She drew interest from the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State, Cincinnati, Michigan State and Bowling Green, among others, but she quickly realized Akron was the place for her.
“It felt the most at-home for sure,” DeRodes said. “I visited a couple other places but Akron was the most welcoming and the most like ‘We want you to come here and be a part of our student body.’ I loved the campus and the people there.”
One of those people is DeRodes’ former teammate Morgan Waggoner, a Ross graduate from 2016.
“It’s awesome to have her there, I love that I’m going to get to have her there,” DeRodes said.
Last season Andrew Evans signed to Oakland University while Waggoner and Meghan Moses (Rutgers) signed in 2016. So what is it about Ross’ swim programs that has allowed it to send to many on to the Division I level?
“I think it’s just high expectations from the get-go, and if you want to swim in Division I, you need high expectations to be able to step up to that,” Ross swim coach Phil Moran said. “Olivia is no exception. She is a fighter, she’s always worked hard and is very deserving of it.”
DeRodes says she plans to major in Exercise Science then pursue her Master’s in Prosthetics and Orthotics. In the pool, DeRodes is a three-time National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association All-American as a member of the Lady Giants’ 200 medley and 200 and 400 freestyle relays. She has also qualified for the OHSAA state meet in each of her first three years and is the program’s record-holder in the 500 freestyle (5:05.97) as well as a member of the record-holding 200 medley and 200 freestyle relays.
Despite all her success, Moran said DeRodes’ potential remains largely untapped.
“I have no doubt she can under five (minutes) in the 500 and under 22 (seconds) in the 50 free, which is really unusual for a girl to be a sprinter and a middle distance and every distance in between,” he said. “She really is unique, so her college coach has an opportunity to mold her a little bit depending on where he needs her.”
Given her adaptability on distances, what exact events she’ll swim at Akron remain to be seen, though she has no preference – almost.
“I really don’t have a preference as long as it’s freestyle and not butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke,” she said. “The distance doesn’t matter but definitely the style.”