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Amid family issues and a medical diagnosis, Miya Vitale found solace in swimming.
After the passing of Vitale’s father when she was 10 years old, she said she started experiencing domestic abuse from her alcoholic mother. The New York native obtained a domestic violence protection against her mother that turned into a restraining order last year, but she still had to get her younger brother out of the house because he remained under her custody.
That traumatic process forced Vitale to take a gap year following her graduation from North Carolina’s Northside High School in 2021 instead of continuing talks with interested colleges such Division I Binghamton University and Division II University of Indianapolis. Still she persevered, going through the college application again this year despite no parental support and extra paperwork required to prove her status as an independent.
In February, she committed to Division III SUNY Brockport to continue swimming and study nursing for the 2022-23 school year.
“Swim has kind of been that one constant thing that was fun for me and made me happy,” said Vitale, a first-generation college student. “So that’s why I wanted to continue my swim career in college: Because I knew when I was going through all that, that I always had that one out – that one thing that could release stress and make me happy.”
A turbulent home life wasn’t the only obstacle Vitale had to overcome on her journey to swimming collegiately. In 2019, she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that can cause her joints to dislocate easily. “Sports aren’t in your future,” the doctor told her, “but if you’re going to take up any sport, I suggest swimming.”
“I got lucky because I already was swimming,” Vitale said. “That was the one thing I got lucky with.”
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome doesn’t impact Vitale much in the water, but it can affect her dryland training and lifting. She said new head coach Zack Wahl has been completely understanding of her condition.
Top Times SCY
- 100 fly – 58.23
- 200 fly – 2:10.88
- 100 back – 58.74
- 400 IM – 4:37.22
In the pool, she’s a versatile swimmer who gravitates toward middle-distance events. She swims club for Patriot Swim Team in Mahopac, New York, where she trains five to six days per week. She’s living with her uncle until she leaves for Brockport in the fall.
The SUNY Brockport women’s swim team is fresh off its best finish in 30 years at the State Universities of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) Swim and Dive Championships in February. The squad placed 3rd with 399 points, highlighted by a first-place finish in the 100 free by freshman Elizabeth Sagan. Although Vitale has been a bit slower than her best times since the pandemic hit, she likely figures to make an immediate impact as her best times would have ranked 1st in the 400 IM, 1st in the 100 back, 2nd in the 200 fly and 3rd in the 100 fly at February’s SUNYAC Championships.
According to Vitale, she’s one of 20 swimmers in a huge recruiting class arriving on campus this fall. The 19-year-old is looking forward to training in a healthy environment with a solid support system after using the pool as a place of refuge for so many years.
“The difficult part was keeping a strong mindset through it and knowing you can do whatever you want to do,” Vitale said. “If you want to play a sport in college, you can do it if you put your mind to it.”
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