2022 NCAA 200 Back ‘A’ Finalist Emma Atkinson Returning To Virginia Tech For COVID-19 5th Year

2021 and 2022 200 backstroke A finalist Emma Atkinson has announced she will be staying at Virginia Tech to use her COVID-19 fifth year.

Atkinson has swam at NCAAs in all four years of her career with the Hokies, earning individual invites in her freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons while swimming as a relay-only swimmer during her senior year (2024).

As a freshman, Atkinson added an immediate impact at NCAAs as she was one of two individual scorers for the team in 2021. She made the A final of the 200 back finishing 4th in a 1:50.43 and the B final of the 100 back finishing 11th in a 51.65, scoring 21 individual points total.

She once again made the NCAA A final in the 200 back as she finished 6th in the event in 2022 in a 1:49.86. She just missed the B final of the 100 back as she was 18th in a 51.99 but made the B final of the 200 free finishing 11th in a 1:44.31.

As a junior, she switched her event lineup as she dropped the 100 back (which is on the same day as the 200 free) and instead swam the 500 free on day 2, 200 free on day 3, and 200 back on day 4. She made the B final in the 200 free swimming a 1:43.58 for 10th.

Atkinson’s senior year did not kick off as planned. She told SwimSwam that at the start of the year she was not feeling well and “could not bring myself to eat or get up and go to swim because I was so exhausted.” After going to the doctor, they confirmed a mononucleosis relapse which kept her out of the water for a month. Eventually, Atkinson was hospitalized because her spleen became “enlarged and was pushing on my other organs causing me to be in immense pain.”

Just a week after being allowed back in the water, Atkinson tested positive for strep throat. As she does not have tonsils it took longer to get rid of than a “normal” case of strep. Atkinson said she “I got put on multiple kinds of medication and it cleared up after a week. Following that, because my immune system was so broken down from mono and strep, I caught a stomach bug that had me out of the water for another 4 days. All in all, I missed about a good two months of training.”

Not only was it a physical battle, but it also was a mental battle for Atkinson. She would still get sick “just about every week with some new illness and I would end up missing practice here and there.” She said that mentally she “was beyond upset and frustrated that I kept getting so sick and I had thought about redshirting because I knew my training wasn’t where it was supposed to be and the fear of not doing well at ACCs and NCAAs made me so anxious and depressed.”

“I ultimately decided against that because I wanted to at least go and score points for my team. Not qualifying for NCAAs as an individual was something that I’ve never had to deal with before and I felt like a disappointment, ashamed, and embarrassed. Even on the relays that I was on at NCAAs, I was not swimming up to my full capability because of the lack of training I had this season along with my body and mind being so broken down.”

“I am planning on taking a 5th year at Virginia Tech which I am thrilled about because I have one last year to do what I love at the school and program that I love.”

Atkinson swam season best times in all of her events at ACCs finishing 9th in the 200 free (1:45.47), 10th in 200 back (1:54.12), and 19th in the 500 free (4:48.41). She went on to swim at 2024 NCAAs as a relay-only swimmer, leading off in a season best of a 1:45.34 in the 200 free helping the team to a 14th place finish. She also split a 49.14 flying start in the 400 free relay.

Atkinson’s SCY best times are:

  • 200 free: 1:43.31 (2023 ACCs)
  • 500 free: 4:40.62 (2023 ACCs)
  • 100 back: 51.44 (2021 NCAAs)
  • 200 back: 1:49.86 (2022 NCAAs)

The Virginia Tech women had three individual NCAA qualifiers including Caroline Bentz (12 individual points) and Chase Travis who both have entered the transfer portal as graduate transfers.

Leave a Reply

Notify of

1 Comment
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 month ago

Best ability is availability

About Anya Pelshaw

Anya Pelshaw

Anya has been with SwimSwam since June 2021 as both a writer and social media coordinator. She was in attendance at the 2022 and 2023 Women's NCAA Championships writing and doing social media for SwimSwam. Currently, Anya is pursuing her B.A. in Economics and a minor in Government & Law at …

Read More »