Editor's note: The following article appeared in the December 2010 issue of Commodore Nation magazine.
Of all the achievements the Vanderbilt women's swim team has accomplished under fifth-year Head Coach Jeremy Organ, none may be more impressive than what seniors Jen Molchan and Anna Fargo have done. They've made it.
The duo will go down in school history as being the first swimmers to go through all four years at Vanderbilt since the program was reborn in 2006. While their stories may seem similar, each student-athlete has taken a far different path.
Molchan was a high school All-America swimmer in Pensacola, Fla., recruited by Louisville, Kentucky, Duke and Vanderbilt. She had ties with Coach Organ and chose the Commodores over the Blue Devils because she wanted to help build a program and compete at the SEC level.
"Jen has grown a lot as an athlete," Assistant Coach Krysten Nemecek said. "She has a tremendous amount of leadership and has brought it throughout her four years."
Fargo was a standout high school musician in St. Louis, Mo., recruited by a few D-III schools. She chose to attend Vanderbilt so she could focus on school and get her degree in civil engineering.
"I think that Anna's hard work and determination in the pool has shown people that if you come in every day and work hard, you're going to get better," Organ said. "She's a strong leader for us, in the classroom and in the pool."
The journey has been both long and rewarding, and heading into the 2010-11 season Molchan has become the most decorated swimmer in Vanderbilt history, breaking four school records. Fargo has been a standout student-athlete, helping the team earn numerous academic honors during her tenure. The two have done a tremendous job building the program.
It has been no easy task. Freshman year, the second year of the program, was a challenge for both girls. The team finished last in the SEC and did not post a win in a dual meet all season.
Molchan came in with high expectations but was coming off a tough senior season. The medicine, health and society major had to learn how to balance the rigorous swimming schedule and her school work. Competing at the SEC level did not make things any easier.
"I was coming off a really bad season my senior year in high school and was trying to get back to where I knew I could be," Molchan said. "I was also living on my own and had to be responsible for myself, which was a huge change, and it added to all my stress."
Molchan handled it well and was able to put together a successful freshman season, placing second in the 100-yard freestyle and 500-yard freestyle against the University of Miami.
Sophomore year was when Molchan hit her stride, setting personal bests in six events while making her presence felt in the Vanderbilt record books. During the SEC Championships, Molchan set the school record in the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 52.21. She was also a part of two record-breaking relay teams that year, including the 200-yard medley relay team that finished with a time of 1:46.31. During her junior campaign, Molchan headed into the SEC Championships and was a member of the 400-yard medley relay team that set a school record with a time of 3:52.71.
Fargo came into Vanderbilt with little experience, only competing for her high school team instead of a club team. The Kirkwood High product worked hard and put in extra time to improve. She has set personal-best times every year and has had most of her success in the SEC Championships.
"She's definitely one of these success stories," Jeremy Organ said. "She came in and didn't have a whole lot of background in the sport, but she worked her tail off for all four years and has dropped her times and been a competitive swimmer."
Fargo also helped the team become one of the top academic programs in the SEC. The College Swimming Coaches Association of America named the Vanderbilt women's swim team Division I Academic All-Americans for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. They were also the only SEC swim program to be among the nation's top 10th percentile in the Academic Performance Review for the 2009-10 season.
Of all the records the duo has been a part of, two stand out. On Oct. 11, 2008, Vandy played host to Centre College and Rhodes College and earned its first dual-meet victory since the program started back up. Molchan and Fargo were members of the 200-yard freestyle relay team that took first place with a time of 1:41.48.
They were also on the 400-yard freestyle relay team that shattered the school record at the 2009 SEC Championships in a time of 3:30.66.
"Getting through this was hard, and I needed someone else there," Fargo said. "It would have been so much harder if it was only one of us going through this experience. We needed each other to make it."
Despite what happens this season, the two close friends have cemented a place in Vanderbilt history and have set the bar for the women's swim team. The legacy they will leave behind is something special that cannot be measured with a stopwatch.
"Records are made to be broken," Organ said. "But being the first to get through four years is something that no one can take away."