Jewel’s journey: a steady climb

A look at Jewel Springer’s ascent to the highest level of collegiate swimming



WSU women’s swimmer Jewel Springer celebrates senior night with her family before an NCAA women’s swim meet against University of Idaho, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor

At first, Jewel Springer hated swimming. 

She was forced into it by her dad due to her brother’s love for it, she said.

Springer is a senior captain for the WSU swim team and a political science major. She is preparing for her third Pac-12 Championship meet in her hometown, Federal Way.

Springer began in recreational swimming, but eventually got into club competition and was always slower than the pack.

Then there was a breakthrough.

“When I turned like 14 I started to kind of see potential and I think my coaches saw potential as well, that there could be something there,” Springer said. “And as I kind of started to compete more at a high level, I realized that it was something that I actually really enjoyed once I actually started to be competitive.”

It took her a while to find the events she was the best at and enjoyed, but once she did, Springer began to value the sport and realized it could take her somewhere.

She grew a lot under the quality club coaches but faced adversity through a high level of turnover among coaches and teammates. However, that has helped her adapt to new coaches, training and teammates at both the high school and college level. 

Some might feel out of their comfort zone when joining a new team, but she said it was “easy for me.”

Around the age of 15 or 16, it was a given Springer would swim in college and she and all her friends had no other option. It would have been a disservice to herself if she did not swim in college, she said.

The twist in the story is Springer wanted to commit somewhere out of state. Her parents met here and wanted to send her on a trip to WSU but she pushed back. However, on that trip to WSU, everything changed.

“I was gonna commit to an out-of-state school and then last minute I came on my trip here and just fell in love with it and all of the girls on my trip. I ended up committing the day after one of the girls on my trip and we’ve roomed all four years together since we’ve been here,” Springer said. “It was just like the stars aligned for me to be here.”

So far at WSU, every year has been completely different whether it be different training partners, experiences and new successes. Going from being “aggressively” at the low end of the team to now gunning for top spots is really cool to see, Springer said.

Her relationships with her coaches are great, whether it be head coach Matt Leach or associate head coach Kate Moore. Moore has seen things others have not and knows how to push her, Springer said.

Springer was a part of Leach’s first recruiting class at WSU and they have built a genuine connection.

“He’s the reason why I wanted to come here, I thought that he was a really good coach and I mean, he’s a great guy. I mean, he’s a weirdo, but like, I love him for it,” Springer said. “And like seeing how him and Kate have both changed since having kids is crazy like them developing their families and they’re still putting effort and time into our family here is just super special to see, so I mean all credit to them. They’re awesome.”

Springer has helped raise the bar for her class and classes after her and added to the history and longevity of the program. Springer has truly “seen it all,” Leach said.

Being a senior and a captain on a young and talented team with wide eyes is a big responsibility. Springer wants them to know she is there for them, no matter what is going on, and wants to set an example.

“I really, really looked up to the seniors when I was a freshman and I was just astounded by what they’re able to do in the pool and in the classroom and I wanted to be like them,” Springer said. “I think little things like being a good training partner and helping lift up the younger people in the pool during practice and at meets is just so important because one day they’ll be seniors and they’ll be trying to do the same thing for their younger class.”

As for her senior season, it has been her best by far and she knew it would be when she set a personal best at the opening inner squad meet, Springer said. 

Springer has been hitting times in practice she never expected to. Her freshman self would never believe the times she has hit this year, Springer said.

She has hit multiple personal bests in the Pac-12 Championships in each of the last two years and now goes into this year’s Championships having set a personal best and WSU top-10 time in the 400-yard individual medley on senior night. 

Springer undersells herself a lot, but her goal is to shave at least one second or more off that time and go for all best times, she said.

While this may be her senior season, no matter the postseason result, this is not the last we will see of Springer.

“I ended up deciding to do an extra year next year just because I love it so much,” Springer said. “I’m so excited to come back for another year and just continue to have the opportunities that I’ve been given the past four years.”

From a girl who was the slowest of the group and hated swimming, to a captain and leader of a Pac-12 program, Springer’s journey is something to behold.