TAMPA, Fla. — For Molly O’Hara, the student-athlete life is defined by equilibrium.
A junior on the University of Tampa women’s swim team, O’Hara most recently competed in the 2019 Sunshine State Conference Championships, where she finished fourth in the 50y Free (23.60) and eighth in the 100y Free (51.69).
In the same event last year, she broke the school record in the 100 fly (54.86).
“Honestly, I went into that meet just trusting in myself and having fun,” O’Hara said, at a practice last Friday. “I didn’t really — it sounds terrible — but I didn’t really know the times.
“I didn’t really know the record or anything, I just knew I had a goal time and that I wanted to go under my best time at that moment, and someone had to actually tell me I got the record. I didn’t know. I was just having fun with it and swam.”
While competition in the pool is a vital part of O’Hara’s life, the student experience bears its own challenges, ones that haven’t always proven simple to overcome.
“It’s honestly hard because for school I’m the type of person who wakes up super early at five in the morning, or stays up super late to do homework,” O’Hara said. “It’s kind of hard to do that because you can’t do that with swimming.
“That’s where I’ve always had a hard time balancing because I’ll show up to practice exhausted or vice versa in the classroom. So that’s where I struggle the most, just my sleeping schedule.”
To find stability, O’Hara has had to make sacrifices, particularly when it comes to her social time.
“I prioritize,” she said. “You can ask anyone that knows me — I’m not the person that will go out too much or anything like that.
I’m always in my house on Friday or Saturday night studying, or I’ll go visit my brother. I’m the type of person where I have to study a lot more than most people and so, in my mind, it’s not really a problem. I just forget about it and the people I’m close with will understand.”
With her student-athlete lifestyle well in hand, O’Hara is able to turn her attention to future goals and give them the attention they demand.
“I thought I was going to make NCAA [this year] in 100 fly individually,” O’Hara said. “So I think my goal next year is to get that first and then to go from there.
“I like to do things little by little, and then think of the next big thing. I just want to improve as I go.”