UVA NCAA Qualifier Sean Conway Considering Fifth Year If He Gets Grad School Fellowship

Yanyan Li
by Yanyan Li 13

February 02nd, 2023 ACC, College, National, News

Virginia fourth-year Sean Conway,  a 2021 NCAA Championship qualifier, confirmed to SwimSwam that he would only consider using his fifth year of eligibility in the 2023-24 season if he was accepted into the UVA Data Science graduate school program on an academic fellowship. However, he believes that his chances of taking a fifth year are “slim”, citing the difficulty of being admitted into the UVA Data Science school (which has had an average class size of 34 students for the last three years) let alone getting a fellowship to afford the costs of grad school.

Meanwhile, Conway has accepted a job offer in Washington DC for next year, where he will be working as a data scientist at Accenture Federal Services.

Fifth years of eligibility were offered to all NCAA winter student-athletes that competed during the COVID-19-affected 2020-21 NCAA season, though there has not been a single UVA fourth-year over the last two seasons that have chosen to take this extra year.

Coming into UVA, Conway was a highly sought-out recruit—he was ranked #8 in SwimSwam’s high school class of 2019 rankings as a junior and #20 as a senior. He improved in all of his times freshman year, setting three personal bests to finish 10th in the 200 back, 11th in the 20o IM, and 8th in the 400 IM at the 2020 ACC Championships.

However, Conway’s breakout season was his sophomore year when he made three ‘A’ finals at 2021 ACCs, placing 5th in the 200 back, 4th in the 200 IM, and 8th in the 400 IM. At that meet, he scored 73 individual points and was Virginia’s top scorer. Conway later on swam at the 2021 NCAA Championships, where he was 18th in the 200 back (1:41.43), 19th in the 400 IM (3:44.29), and 34th in the 200 IM (1:45.06). Although he narrowly missed out on scoring points at NCAAs, he still swam his fastest times ever in those events.

Conway didn’t quite hit his sophomore times during junior year and missed NCAA qualification, but he still finished 14th in the 200 back, 12th in the 200 IM, and 8th in the 400 IM to score 50 individual points—tied for the fifth-most on his team. With ACCs still to come, Conway still has an opportunity to qualify for a second NCAA championships this season.

Sean Conway, Season-Bests:

High School Freshman Year (2019-20) Sophomore Year (2021-22) Junior Year (2021-22) Senior Year (2022-23, Pre-ACCS)
200 IM 1:45.77 1:45.60 1:44.11 1:45.15 1:45.93
400 IM 3:47.38 3:46.39 3:44.29 3:47.24 3:55.55
200 back 1:43.54 1:42.27 1:41.43 1:42.67 1:45.81

While Conway’s impact for UVA is bigger on the conference level, he is still one of the top swimmers on his team in both the 400 IM and 200 back. In the last three years, only Casey Storch has been faster in the 400 IM, while Jack Aikins and Justin Grender have been faster in the 200 back. All three aforementioned swimmers were NCAA scorers in their respective events.

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Chanandler Bong
1 year ago

Are other fourth-year athletes starting to announce their fifth-year plans? I guess I haven’t seen it or haven’t been paying enough attention.

While I’m on it, does the fifth year mostly coincide with grad school or are there students who take a fifth year to finish undergrad at the same school? I know a lot of athletes have transferred to grad school (or stayed in place and done grad school) and used their fifth year, but what doesn’t stick is how many are just taking five years to finish undergrad at the same school. It would be really interesting to see a chart of schools/fifth years/+grad student transfers.

And when will all these fifth years end? Next year? I’ve lost… Read more »

Reply to  Chanandler Bong
1 year ago

Haha I managed to cram four years into five, and I wasn’t even swimming.

Reply to  Chanandler Bong
1 year ago

There’s 2 more cycles of 5th years remaining. 2023-2024 and 2024-2025 seasons

Reply to  DrSwimPhil
1 year ago

They’ll be as old as Stetson Bennett.

1 year ago

Has anyone taken their 5th year at UVA? Just wondered because normally UVA doesn’t allow their athletes to take a 5th year…and get a scholarship. Not sure of their approach to the Covid extra year?

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

They haven’t had a swimmer stay for a 5th year.

Jaycee Yegher is there as a grad student, but she was a transfer and technically doesn’t get a 5th year because the Ivies just skipped the COVID year. This would be her 6th season if she had swum every year since she started her college career.

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

UVA’s College of Arts and Sciences requires students to graduate in four years, so unless their athletes get accepted to grad school or are part of a different, more lenient undergrad program, they don’t have a way to take a fifth year. I don’t think scholarships are the main issue.

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

It’s not that UVA doesn’t allow their student athletes or give them a scholarship. It’s the fact that UVA students are encouraged through the university to graduate in 4 years and many have a great career waiting for them after graduation.

Reply to  SwimFan27
1 year ago

and a data science major starting with Accenture probably starts in the $125-$150K/ year range (whether UVA or any other top level program). Lot to give up for an extra year swimming.

Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

Kate Douglass can get whatever she wants,

Reply to  Rich
1 year ago

and as an honor level computer science major, she too has very promising well into 6 figure job prospects whenever she opts to retire from competitive swimming.

Volunteer Water Boy
1 year ago

Sean is the kindest, most gentle person you’ll ever meet. He’ll also have incredibly competitive Terminator moments that are amazing to see. Great swimmer, better teammate.

Giddy Up Sean!

Reply to  Volunteer Water Boy
1 year ago

Great Tiktok too

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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