September 23, 2019 | 70° F

Junior's passion for pool begins at age five

Photo by Jennifer Kong |

Junior Michelle Berman competed in three races in the Scarlet Knights' season-opening quad meet with Connecticut, Georgetown and Villanova, finishing seventh in the 200-yard butterfly, 12th in the 500-yard freestyle and 13th in the 1,000-yard freestyle.

Ask most young children what they want to be when they grow up and often the answers are outlandish, yet similar.

They all want to be fire fighters, astronauts or Pokémon trainers.

But if you asked Michelle Berman what she wanted to do with her life when she was 5 years old, the answer would have been much simpler: swim.

Berman, now a junior on the Rutgers swimming and diving team, first began to swim competitively at age 5.

Her enchantment with aquatics began from watching her older sister at swim practice near their home in La Miranda, Calif.

"I was known for following my sister around the pool deck and up and down the side," Berman said. "My mom and the coaches finally figured ‘Let's see if she can do it.' And I did."

Berman continued to stick with competitive swimming as she grew and eventually landed a spot on Fullerton Aquatic Sport Team.

Her parents were always her biggest supporters and tried to get more involved in Berman's passion. Geoffrey Berman, her father, became an announcer and called his daughter's meets, while her mother, Autumn, cooked lunch for the athletes and coaches.

"My dad was always my biggest supporter in my mind," Berman said. "He always knew how to make me feel better after a bad race or how to be super excited for me if I did really well."

Berman earned MVP honors on her high school team and placed highly at the California Interscholastic Federation Championship every year.

She also owns high school records in the 100-meter butterfly and 500-meter freestyle and was a part of multiple record-setting relay teams.

The recruiting process was very stressful for Berman. She looked at Richmond, Idaho, SUNY-Buffalo, Iowa State and California-San Diego before deciding to join the Scarlet Knights.

"It was a very hard decision, but my choice was for sure the right one," Berman said. "It's really hard to tell other schools you want to go elsewhere. I wanted to see the other side of the country. Plus I was ready to see snow."

Moving to the other side of the country also meant that Berman's parents would no longer be able to attend every meet. Her parents try to see Berman swim as much as possible and annually fly to the Big East Championships.

"That's the only downside of moving as far away as I have to go to school," Berman said. "I just miss being able to look into the stands and see them. They always made things better."

Berman competes in the butterfly and distance freestyle for the Knights.

"Our team gets along amazingly well. We all hang out all the time and we enjoy each other's company," she said. "I could have a conversation with any girl on the team and they would be there for me. Our team makes me feel honored and proud to be a part of it."

Swimming is not just a hobby for Berman, nor is it something with which she wants to cut ties with when she leaves college. 

"I love what I do. It makes me proud to be who I am, and proud to be a swimmer," Berman "Not many people choose to do what I do." 

Matt Canvisser

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Targum.