Oliva Smoliga has a clear goal for the next four years.
“The Olympics in 2016 are always in the back of my mind,” said the Glenbrook South student and competitive swimmer. “It’s always been a lifelong goal of mine. Coming off the (Olympic) Trials this past summer, I have more experience."
Smoliga, a high school senior, recently announced she will attend the University of George next fall. She says its swim program will help her prepare for the next summer Olympics.
“I know I have to take things one step at a time,” the three-time state high-school champion said. But the Olympics are still her "major goal, on top, that I’m always thinking about.”
In the meantime, Smoliga is competing in a state swimming championship later this month at Evanston Township High School. She is the captain of her GBS swim team, which earned second place at a Central Suburban League swim conference on Saturday at New Trier High School, CSL Insider reports.
“Our girls did shine at conference," Smoliga said. “I feel we can push a top three finish at state. It would be absolutely awesome to come home with the trophy, especially for all the senior girls that make up more than half the varsity.”
With a competitive performance at last summer’s Olympic Trials under her belt, Smoliga knows a quality personal showing can help bring that state trophy to Glenview. She’ll have to swim in races that she has already set state records in — the 100-yard backstroke, 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle.
Speeding Up Her Backstroke
“My backstroke is kind of slow this time of year,” she said. "I was hoping to be a little faster. My freestyle is up there for sure. I hope my times contribute to the team and hope I can motivate and lead the girls to swim their best, and keep a positive outlook through prelims and finals at state. It’s such a long meet. Even though we’re sore, we have to push through and race.”
Smoliga, who has long swum for the Glenview Titan Aquatic Club, will have little time to rest after the state tourney. Smoliga officially chose Georgia on Oct. 6. over the University of Southern California and University of Texas, which also offered full swimming scholarships.
“Georgia was our preference,” said Elizabeth Smoliga, Olivia’s mother. “We kind of fell in love with [Georgia coach] Jack Bauerle, who visited us at our home. Sometimes you have a feeling about the person.”
The younger Smoliga said picking college was one of the hardest decisions she has ever made.
"It’s really hard, especially when all the colleges give you the same offer," she said. “I definitely fell in love with the West Coast and everything USC had to offer. It came down to the people I’d be spending time with at Georgia. Coach Jack just has this warm, giving, kind of Southern hospitality vibe and personality.”
Championship ‘Bling’ Sparkle in her Eyes
The recruiting of Smoliga to Georgia was boosted when the swimmers got their Southeastern Conference championship rings just as she arrived on campus. She was impressed.
“They’re all blinged out,” Smoliga said.
When she’s not swimming, she plans to major in physical therapy, which includes sports medicine and nutrition.
Meanwhile, Smoliga racked up yet another honor in a swimming career destined to nail down more of the same.
The Illinois Swimming Association named her Illinois Female Swimmer of the Year at its October annual banquet. Steve Iida, her longtime Glenview Titans coach, was named Illinois Senior Coach of the Year.
“It was a great feeling, especially getting it the second year in a row,” Smoliga said. “I saw a bunch of 13 and under kids at the banquet. It was so cool that I was honored, they know my name and hopefully it motivated them. I remember when I was 12 or 13, I went to that banquet (and was similarly inspired).”