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Far from home: Gresdal makes sacrifices for her craft

Jake Lacey/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Heating up the pool: Arizona sophomore Jenna Gresdal headed south to Arizona from her home in Ontario, Canada, after swimming for her home country in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The wildcat men and women hit the pool tomorrow to take on Texas at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.
By Allison Hamila
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 26, 2006
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Swimmer moves from Canada to compete for UA

You could say that Jenna Gresdal is an artist of sorts.

She has been making sacrifices for her craft since she was 14 years old, including moving away from her family - with whom she is very close - in order to better her art. Since then, she has been painting her destiny as one of the top swimmers in the Arizona program.

Gresdal, a senior, earned six first-team All-American honors at the NCAA Championships last season and has been a contributor to the team since her career as a Wildcat began.

The soft-spoken Canadian, hailing from the small town of Terrace Bay, Ontario, is a serious swimmer who has swum competitively since the tender age of 7.

At 14, she faced a tough decision after the swim club in her hometown fell apart. She could either move away from her family or give up competitive swimming.

Gresdal decided to move to Toronto, and it was then she was able to kick it into a new gear, she said. She became so immersed in swimming that she felt at age 15 she was ready to compete in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

"I thought at first that my coach was crazy," Gresdal said.

She said that competing in the Olympics was a bit overwhelming because of how young she was, but said she still considers it one of her greatest accomplishments to date, along with competing in the NCAA Championships last season.

In part because of the prestige of American college swimming over the Canadian model, Gresdal said she decided to venture south for her college career.

"There are different opportunities in the U.S. - scholarships," she said.

What also drew her to the desert was the Arizona sunshine and the general atmosphere of the school.

"There's just something about Arizona that I love," she said. "(Head) coach (Frank) Busch did a great job of recruiting. I felt like I was wanted here."

Being around all of the other great swimmers on the team helps her to stay motivated, Gresdal said.

"All my life, watching the swimmers who made it, I always looked up to them," she said.

Gresdal is in great company with the Arizona program, which is one of the top programs in the country, but she contributes to it greatly herself.

Busch said that although Gresdal is quiet and unassuming, she is definitely a competitor.

"If there was ever a wolf in sheep's clothing, it's Jenna Gresdal," he said.

Busch said that Gresdal has been a first-class individual since she arrived.

"She always wants to get better," Busch said. "She pays attention, and that's how she gets better."

Busch said Gresdal is always forward-looking, setting her mind on a national championship run, while in true team player form, she wants the team to compete for the national title.

The toughest part for Gresdal occurs away from the pool, where being at Arizona involves living far from her family, to whom she attributes her success.

"(I admire) the sacrifices my family has made for me to be here to be a part of all of this," she said.

"It can get difficult at times," she added. "I get to see them for Christmas and summer."

That could never be enough for Gresdal, however. When she first moved away she was able to see her family every weekend, but it has become less and less frequent recently.

She said her parents are her inspiration, along with her boyfriend and her team.

Gresdal may make a push for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but she is not sure yet if she will have the time to train for them. She said she will make a decision soon.

For now, Gresdal has the NCAA Championships on the horizon and is hoping that her season will continue to go as she has planned.

"My goal for the rest of the season is to win an NCAA Championship," she said. "I have a good shot in the 100(-yard) back(stroke). I have a team goal to win with the relay team."

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