By all accounts, senior Bec Welke had a successful collegiate swimming career at UToledo. And yet, that career almost didn’t happen.
The Toowoomba, Australia, native nearly quit swimming in 2015. Despite her success as a youth swimmer, she did not receive much interest from Australian universities.
“Swimming in Australia places an emphasis on the highest elite athletes, and there are no motivation mechanisms to keep athletes on board,” Welke said. “There are very few scholarships for athletics at universities unless you’re at a school in a capital city. College athletics in the U.S. stand out from how sports operate in Australia. Australian universities and colleges place more focus on purely academics rather than helping athletes follow their dreams.”
It wasn’t until an American talent scout spotted Welke that she decided to look into coming to the United States to study and swim. As a self-described “water baby” who fell in love with swimming at an early age, Welke can’t believe now that she almost thought of quitting the sport that has become such a big part of her life.
“I talked to a few other schools,” Welke said. “But I really liked Toledo’s business program, and the campus is incredibly beautiful. It was clearly the right decision, and I’m so glad I didn’t give up a sport I love dearly.”
Welke came to campus in fall 2016. The transition from high school to college is already a difficult one for so many incoming freshmen, let alone those attending school more than 9,000 miles away from home.
“I think I handled the transition pretty well,” Welke said. “I did get homesick a bit my freshman year. But my teammates became my biggest support rocks, and we were always there for each other whenever we felt homesick.”
Her collegiate swimming career ended Feb. 29 at the Mid-American Conference Championship meet in Buffalo, a few weeks before the sporting world, and the world at large, came to a halt.
“When everything started closing, I was stressed and overwhelmed,” Welke said. “Everything was happening so fast. I got back from my spring break trip on the morning of March 14, and I left Toledo for Australia on St. Patrick’s Day. I took one suitcase with me as that’s all I could bring with me at the time.
“This isn’t how I pictured my senior year to end. I was looking forward to our swim and dive banquet and the [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee] senior banquet, but COVID-19 had other plans for the entire world.”
Welke, who graduated last spring with a degree in finance, is pursuing her MBA in business administration and plans to go into financial advising after graduation this summer. Finishing her master’s degree halfway across the world has created some unique challenges.
“For one of my classes I have a group project, so trying to communicate with them while I’m 14 hours ahead has been a little difficult,” she said. “However, we manage quite well. For the most part, I am able to complete my work well before the due date and start next week’s work a little earlier. I like being able to work ahead so the time difference pushes me to get my work done.”
A hard worker in and out of the pool, Welke credits her time at UToledo for helping her develop those skills that will lead her to a successful life after graduation.
“Being a student-athlete at Toledo has helped me become more organized and time-managed. All of the classes I have taken have in some way directly related to what I’m going to do in my career. I think I’m pretty well-prepared for life after college.”