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Ella Smith Makes a Splash for the Eagles as They Head to the ASUN Conference Championship

Jessica Piland/FGCU Athletics

The FGCU women’s swimming and diving team has been preparing for the ASUN Conference Championship the last few weeks, yet a first year Eagle is the one making a splash. Ella Smith is a junior at FGCU, specializing in breaststroke and the individual medley (IM), and she has made waves in the swim scene with her talent from overseas.

She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, where her passion for swimming grew. She began swimming at a young age with the support of her mother, Nicole Livingstone, who was a swimmer herself. Livingstone swam in three different summer Olympics representing Australia. Her mother was surrounded by swimming her whole life and Smith quickly adopted her own love for the water sport.

Smith made the move to the U.S. because she still had aspirations to swim competitively. Australia did not provide that opportunity because there was no way she could study at a university for a degree and swim at the same time. This prompted her to move out of the country right out of high school.

“And for me, it was an athlete that is still wanting to pursue a sport, but isn’t hitting the standards of Olympics, or, you know, Commonwealth Games times and wanting to be recognized for the value that I have as an athlete,” Smith said.

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Although Smith’s goal was not the Olympics, she was able to win championships at a national level with Indian River State College. With the team, she went to two NJCAA championships in 2022 and 2023.

“Winning that national title, I think just solidifies how important your team is and how important the people around you [are], “ Smith said. “I have a very good group of people around me, and winning obviously becomes so much more important when you all get to do it together.”

In the lead up to the NJCAA championship, Smith had been dealing with a knee injury. Despite the injury, she was ranked fourth out of all NJCAA swimmers. 

“It was really important to me because it felt like all the hard work was finally worth it. And I think to be ranked fourth in the nation is a pretty special thing,” Smith said.

After this feat, Smith was looking to move up to the next level of swim competition at the collegiate level. She found this opportunity with FGCU at the NCAA Division I level.

“I think just walking onto campus, you know that FGCU is somewhere that you want to be because it’s a beautiful setting, [and] the team is such a supportive group of people,” Smith said. “Dave, as a resource, is definitely a very, very big part of being here. Because if you don’t have a good resource as a coach, then, you know, there isn’t any point of being here.”

According to head coach Dave Rollins, as soon as she transferred to the team, Smith had an immediate effect on her fellow Eagles. Her work ethic was a big characteristic she brought with her to FGCU which she has shown throughout her swimming career.

“She’s very outgoing. She brings a lot of energy to the team and to the pool deck,” Rollins said. “She’s a very hard worker. Any athlete can be a little, you know, their hardest critic on themselves, but she wants and works towards really incredible things.”

In Smith’s first season, she has already been able to secure gold with the Eagles. She earned first place in the 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1:05.58 in FGCU’s swim meet against Georgia Southern. 

“I think it was good to do that and prove to myself that there was more in me and that the improvement and development as a swimmer is there,” Smith said. “So I think it was exciting, you know, it’s always special, and it’s always a good thing to have. But for me, it just showed that the goal was having the results.”

Smith is a junior pursuing a bachelor’s in communication with a concentration in public relations at FGCU. Along with swimming and being a student at FGCU, Smith currently works as an intern with FGCU Athletics and their social media team. She has future hopes of working social media for a minor league sports team after she graduates.

Smith and the rest of the FGCU women’s swimming and diving team head to Knoxville, Tennessee, to compete for the 2024 ASUN Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship from Feb. 21 to 24. The Eagles look to win their first swimming and diving championship under the ASUN banner as they have competed in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association (CCSA) Championship from 2008 until this season.

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About the Contributor
Jeffrey Hrunka
Jeffrey Hrunka, Eagle News Assistant Sports Editor
Jeffrey Hrunka is a junior double majoring in communications and journalism with a concentration in public relations. Jeffrey is from Fort Myers where his interest in sports journalism originated after falling in love with the world of motorsports. When he’s not working for Eagle News, he is usually spending time with friends, watching the New York Giants lose, or chilling in the pool.

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