Since 2012, Gardner-Webb swimming alum Heather Roka has been training to cross the English channel. She accomplished that feat on Friday, August 25th as she successfully completed the swim in 12 hours, 13 minutes, and 53 seconds. That makes her the 5th fastest swimmer among the 29 who have successfully done so this year according to Gardner-Webb’s News Center.
During her collegiate swimming career, Roka competed for Gardner-Webb from 2004-2008. She credited her time at GWU as the inspiration for her swim in an interview with Gardner-Webb:
“The team taught me how to learn to love a challenge, and the wonderful lifetime friendships formed during hours of training, bus rides, and meets still impact my life on a daily basis,” she affirmed. “The only reason I am even attempting this swim is because of the love of swimming and all the positive memories. Upon graduation, I found myself unable to walk away from the swimming world. No words will ever describe how grateful I am that Coach Simpson decided I could be a valuable part of the GWU team and family.”
Roka’s crew included her sister, Lyndsey Roka Mitchel, and her friend, Isabel Houzlet, who were both swimmers for Gardner-Webb as well. While swimming at GWU, Roka was a Northeast Conference champion in both the 500 free and 1650 free. Since graduating, she’s been focusing on Open Water. Her successes in that discipline thus far include winning the Tampa Bay Marathon in April.