Megan and Linda Bull on Tribe Swim and Track
I first heard about William and Mary through my mom, Linda Bull (maiden name Burke), who attended W&M from 1983-1987 and was on the women’s track and field team. When I was looking at schools, my mom suggested I fill out a recruiting questionnaire for William and Mary swimming. Initially I objected because I didn’t want to go to William and Mary due to my mom’s affiliation with the school. I gave in and filled out the questionnaire when my mom informed me that, in addition to being one of the best academic institutions in the country, W&M was D1 and had a strong athletics program. Her own experience on the track and field team spoke for itself- during her time at W&M, my mom had broken an individual record in the indoor 500 meter run, and had been a part of the relays that broke the indoor mile and indoor two mile relay records.
Once I took my recruiting trip and met the swim team, my original concerns were dismissed. In the end, my decision was between W&M and Power-5 big name school. I chose William and Mary over Indiana’s nationally ranked swim program because of the people. During my visit, the team was just as interested in what I did outside of the pool as they were in the times I put up. They treated me as if I were already one of their teammates. I committed because I was ready to go home to my family in Williamsburg. Despite the limited resources we had, I still made significant improvements to my times. My freshman year alone, I broke the 500 free and 200 breast records, and won rookie of the year after our CAA meet. My sophomore year, I broke my own 500 record from freshman year, and put up a new record in the 200 fr. Last year as a junior, I broke my 200 breast record from freshman year.
Though I hold numerous individual records, and have won many CAA titles, this is not what I am known for on my team. Instead, I am renowned amongst my teammates as the person who knows everyone’s birthday by memory. Or as the one with corny jokes and witty comebacks. And when my teammates found out I knew all the lyrics to Train’s “Hey Soul Sister”, one of my all time favorite songs, they played it on a van ride to the pool over our training trip and sang all the lyrics with me. In other words, I am celebrated for all the quirks that make me, me. In high school I was very high strung, and always approached practicing as something I needed to work hard at. I wanted to appear serious, so I was reluctant to open up and show people who I truly was. The coaching staff and team at W&M has allowed me to relax, and grow into the quirky person I am, without forcing me to let go of my swimming ambitions.
I would not have thought of considering W&M if it were not for my mom’s suggestion that I take a closer look at the merit of their athletic program. After cuts were made to both men’s and women’s swimming and men’s indoor and outdoor track, I asked my mom how the presence of both a men’s and women’s team affected her experience at W&M. She explained that there was a camaraderie and an added positive dynamic to track with the presence of the men’s team. She grew up with two brothers who also played sports, so she was grateful to make friendships with guys participating in the same sport as her because it truly made W&M feel like home. It was these experiences she was drawing off of when she encouraged me to look into the school. One of her track friends, James Vick, even ended up marrying my mom’s four year roommate at W&M, Ellen Fleury. James ended up meeting Ellen, who was not an athlete, through a class they had together. My mom, James and Ellen still keep in touch- my mom even got to see James during Fall 2017 move in because they both had kids attending W&M. Even thirty years after they graduated, they were able to hang out and rekindle the friendship that formed because of their involvement in the sport of track.
These 7 sports are not connected because we all recently got cut by W&M athletics. We are connected because across genders, sports, and generations people from each of these seven sports have inspired great students, great athletes, and better people to come to William and Mary, which is exactly what the school prides itself on. William and Mary’s rigorous academics require students who are committed to putting countless hours of hard work in for substantial results, which is why I think many individuals involved in these sports choose to come here. They know the drive it takes to be a competitive student at William and Mary because they’ve followed the same principles when it comes to being a competitive athlete. Without a men and women’s track and field program that reflected these criteria, my mom would never have come to W&M, which in turn means I likely would not have considered their program either. Cutting all of these programs in a span of five minutes goes against the values of flourishing, integrity, and respect that W&M claims it is striving towards. Through these sports all 118 athletes push themselves to improve as competitors, leaders, and people both in and out of the classroom. It is a shame that the school does not reciprocate all that we have done for W&M and the community.