The act itself wasn’t unusual. Around DeNunzio Pool, Aemisegger is admired as much for her grueling workouts as she is for her speed and versatility in the water. But watching the 10-time All-American push through her daily routine made Teeter think about the burden of high expectations.
Aemisegger holds Princeton women’s records in eight events — not including relays — and nearly every time she dives into the pool, she is the favorite.
“It’s like having a 50-pound bag of sand on your back all the time,” Teeter said. “I’ve heard people — on this team, even — say ‘Oh, that’s so easy for you.’ Well, that’s not easy. Being great has huge responsibility and burdens that come with it, and I think that Alicia has handled them with grace and with some real maturity.”
Aemisegger does not see her talent as a burden, or at least she is too polite to say so. But it’s undeniable that the senior star has carried a lot on her shoulders. She was the most heralded Ivy League swimming recruit in a decade, and in her freshman and sophomore years, she swam extra workouts near her family’s home outside Philadelphia to prepare for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. There were days when she would spend two hours in the car, six in the pool, and the rest of her waking time studying or in class.
At the trials, Aemisegger placed seventh in the 400-meter individual medley final, five spots shy of a trip to Beijing. But she did not let that near-miss stall her swimming career. She returned to Princeton with a lighter but still ambitious training plan and posted even faster times as a junior.
Now, on the eve of the Ivy League Championships Feb. 25–27, Aemisegger continues to break records and chase new goals, including unseating host and defending-champion Harvard to win a third Ivy team title. “The fact that we didn’t win Ivies last year has been a big motivation for my senior year,” she said.
At the Ivy meet, Aemisegger will have plenty of help from standouts like Courtney Kilkuts ’10, a three-time Ivy champion in the 200-yard individual medley who recently broke an 18-year-old school record in the 100-yard breaststroke; Meredith Monroe ’12, the school-record holder in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke; and Megan Waters ’11, the league’s top 50-yard freestyle swimmer.
Training with Aemisegger is one of the reasons for Princeton’s remarkable team speed, according to Kilkuts. Each day in the pool, she said, comes with a vivid reminder: “This is what I need to be doing if I want to be one of the best swimmers in the country.”
To be the best in an event may be the last item on Aemisegger’s career checklist. She has a handful of top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships, including one second-place and two thirds, but she has not reached the top of the podium.
While Aemisegger said that a first-place at the NCAA meet “has always been a goal,” even without it, her place as one of Princeton’s greatest athletes remains secure. In addition to her school records and All-America honors, she has won nine individual Ivy titles and set Ivy meet records in four individual events and four relays.