With two inches of snow on the ground, swimming is not on the mind of most students. Unless you are a part of the CSU women’s swim and dive team, which is off to its best start since 2009 — Jessica Shepard is largely to thank for that.
The sophomore out of Dripping Springs, Texas won Mountain West Swimmer of the Week accolades last week for her stellar 26-point performance against New Mexico. Shepard took home blue ribbons in the 100-meter backstroke and 200-meter IM, placed second in the 200 backstroke and led off the second-place 200-meter medley relay team.
Assistant coach Mackenzie Brown says she is also very well-liked on the team, a leader by example but not necessarily vocal.
“She’s not really that outward cheerleader but in terms of smiling and doing the work and being everywhere we need her to be, it manifests into ‘she’s so positive,’” Brown said. “She has a different kind of leadership. We call them our neutral, Switzerland girls that everyone gets along with — she’s one of them.”
This is Shepard’s second weekly honor. She was also recognized on Nov. 13, earning 27 points for her team and allowing CSU to comeback from behind to beat Northern Arizona 152-148. Shepard stood atop a metaphorical podium four times that day, placing first in all four events. Her times in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke events were season-highs and ranked in the top-10 for Mountain West athletes this season.
Shepard’s two weekly honors are rivaled only by her teammate, sophomore Ariana Milone who has also been twice honored for her performance on the dive team.
“It’s pretty exciting, I did not even know that there was such a thing until this year,” Shepard said. “Hopefully this continues for the next two years.”
But these accolades are not out of the ordinary for Shepard. In high school, she was awarded both Texas State Athlete of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year in 2012. The year she broke the state record in the 100 backstroke, earning her All-America recognition. She was a varsity athlete all four years, and swam for the all-state first team for the 100 backstroke, 200 IM and the 200 medley relay.
Shepard keeps her success going when she steps out of the water too. She is majoring in construction management, and her coaches praise her ability to separate these areas of her life without letting either one suffer.
“Jess is very goal-oriented,” Brown said. “One of her strong suits is seeing the season is committing the day she steps foot on this campus all the way through conference. She does a really good job organzing everything before pool time, so when she is here, she is on.”
Only a sohomore, CSU can expect great things from Shepard for the future. Brown says she has potential to break into the top-10 in the Mountain West or even break school records.
CSU students can come support Shepard and her teammates in their last meet at home this Saturday at noon. It’s an orange out and the first 100 students will receive free T-Shirts. For Shepard, it’s one more chance to prove herself; another goal to cross off her list.
“I’d rather just show people that I want to work hard than tell them,” Shepard says. “I like having goals and being able to reach them with hard work. But I don’t like to think too far ahead, I’m focusing on one more win at home.”
Break Out: Jessica Shepard Accomplishments:
Mountain West Player of the Week – Jan. 22
Earned four weekly honors this season
New Mexico Invite Stats:
Contributed 26 points to the 185-113 victory
100 Backstroke (56.94)
200IM (2:10.04)Sports Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reacher at email@example.com and on Twitter @c_rasta5.