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Quick recovery from labrum tear results in surprise national title for Lindsey Wilson swimmer


Lindsey Wilson College swimmer Ronni Borders did not expect to win a national title this season.

In fact, she wasn’t even sure she would get to compete for one.

Last fall, the freshman from Louis, Del., suffered what she feared was a season-ending injury when she tore her left labrum. But Borders made one of the quickest recoveries doctors have seen from an injury that usually ends a swimmer’s seasons. By February, she was swimming competitively again for the Blue Raiders.

And on March 5, Borders capped off her comeback by winning the NAIA national title in the women’s swimming 100-yard breaststroke. That made Borders the 31st Blue Raider to win an individual national title and the first to win an NAIA national title in swimming.

Ronni Borders is the first Lindsey Wilson College swimmer to win an NAIA national title. She was first in the women’s 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 3.47 seconds at the NAIA Swimming & Diving National Championships, held March 2-5 in Columbus, Ga. (LWC Athletics Photo)

Ronni Borders is the first Lindsey Wilson College swimmer to win an NAIA national title. She was first in the women’s 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 1 minute, 3.47 seconds at the NAIA Swimming & Diving National Championships, held March 2-5 in Columbus, Ga. (LWC Athletics Photo)

“I was really scared coming into it because I knew I didn’t have as much training under my belt as all the other girls did,” said Borders, who won the national title with a time of 1 minute, 3.47 seconds. “I just came in and I was like, ‘I’m going to go for it.’ I pushed myself as hard as I could go. When I looked at the scoreboard and saw I was first, I was like, ‘Wow!’ I was really surprised. I looked up at coach, and I was like, ‘I did it!’”

Borders did not compete the first time for Lindsey Wilson until Feb. 4-6, when the Mid-South Conference Championships were held in Kingsport, Tenn.

Up until then, she was the usually the most talented swimmer not in the pool, reduced to the role of timekeeper and cheerleader for her teammates.

“The doctor (who treated her) said that she was one of the quickest athletes he had recover from her kind of surgery,” said LWC swim coach Alicia Kemnitz, who is in her sixth season at LWC.

Borders blew through the MSC championships to become the No. 1 seed in the women’s breaststroke at the NAIA Swimming & Diving National Championships, held March 2-5 in Columbus, Ga.

“We were just hoping she could just squeeze by some national cuts and be on relays for us. She ended up, off of one conference meet, being seeded first in the country” in the breaststroke, Kemnitz said.

At the national meet, Borders started the 100-yard breaststroke with a preliminary-best time of 1:04.29. In the finals, Borders cut nearly a second off of her preliminary time and beat Andrea Vega of Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University by 0.24 second, who finished in 1:03.71

“The last turn, I saw that I was barely ahead of her, and I’m not a back-half racer at all and she was,” Borders said. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to push myself this last 25.’ In the last 12 yards or so I saw her creeping up on me, and I was like, ‘Go, go go.’ Then I knew I had gotten it. I was barely ahead of her though.”

Borders’ win was extra special because her mother, Janet Borders, brought several family members to witness her make LWC history. Her mom’s business even stopped working temporarily to watch the webcast of the NAIA championships.

“My mom knew that I was going to need a lot of people cheering for me. … It just meant a lot to have so many people there for me and my team members,” Borders said.

Kemnitz said she knew Borders had the potential to stand atop the NAIA podium one day, just not this soon into her collegiate career.

“When I recruited her, I remember telling our athletic director, Willis Pooler, when I made her the scholarship offer, ‘She can compete for a title and be All-American for us,’” Kemnitz said. “I didn’t think she would be able to do it this year for us, honestly.”

Overall, the LWC women’s and men’s teams posted their best results at the NAIA Swimming & Diving National Championships. The women finished sixth, and the men finished in eighth place. A total of 11 Blue Raiders earned NAIA-College Swimming Coaches Association of America All-American honors, and six relay teams earned All-American honors.

Before this year’s national meet, LWC had placed but one individual and two teams on the All-American honor roll.

“So that’s quite the jump in one year,” Kemnitz said. “It’s been my best year in my 11 years as a collegiate coach. … Everyone just really jelled together. There was a family-like atmosphere and people just pushed each other every day in practice. … The whole mentality of the team finally came together. It was great to see.”

Borders said she looks forward to defending her NAIA national title, and hopefully swim a full season in 2016-17.

“It’s been really fun. I’ve gotten to know the team really well,” she said. “Winning a national title feels awesome. I did not think that I could do it, and now that I’ve done it, I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m the first.’”

From LWC Communications


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One Comment

  1. Carole Wood says:

    Congratulations to Ronni and the entire Lindsey Wilson Swim Team on an incredible season. Thanks to your dedication to this team and each other you have given every Swim Mom and Swim Dad another one of the Memory Making Moments we live for. We are so proud of you all. Go Blue Raider Swimmers!!

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