Senior swim co-captain Luke Welle culminated his 14-year swim career with a 12th consecutive NWC team championship. However, his journey over the past four years in preparing for the medical school application process has not made his swimming career easy.
Welle said that his experiences with the demanding schedule of the swim team have helped him to prioritize his life and manage his time.
“You’re in the water five hours a day and getting up every morning at 4:45. You’ve got a set number of hours to spend with friends and your girlfriend and do your homework and get some time to yourself,” Welle said. “[Swimming] was a priority for me and it was definitely something that I wanted to make sure I got into my schedule and somehow, miraculously I don’t know how I did it, but I was able to.”
Welle’s teammate and roommate, senior Andrew Sumnicht, said Welle has made an impression on the team from the start and that his maturity level has grown as he has gotten older.
“Luke has done pretty well at all aspects of his life. He’s got a really good balance,” Sumnicht said.
After spending many of his medical job-shadowing hours in the emergency room, Welle is considering pursuing a career as an emergency room physician after attending Oregon Health and Science University next fall.
“It’s really kind of a cool patient demographic,” Welle said. “You see all socioeconomic backgrounds and people that are really hurt and people that are drug-seeking or people that aren’t really hurt and want worker’s [compensation]. It keeps you on your toes.”
With all of the stressful moments he endured in the classroom and staying on top of his studies, Welle said that swimming served as a release.
“It was just two hours of me and the pool and the guy next to me and the pace clock and the coach, and I could just clear my mind of academics and med school and all my little problems and worries and stuff and just focus on the here and now,” Welle said. “It took a lot of time and it took away from hours I could have spent studying or sleeping or doing other things, but at the same time it kept me sane.”
Welle has also been able to utilize his role as a team captain to infuse more stress relief into his life.
One of the notable team activities is the annual lip-sync competition, in which swimmers gather for a Mock-Rock style event over Jan Term break, to perform in groups or individually. Welle was part of a group that performed the song “Timber” by Ke$ha.
“I was a tree. I can’t dance so I was a tree and they ‘timbered’ me and I fell over,” Welle said. “The girls put together a pretty impressive line-dance and they all did that and I was a tree.”
Despite his devotion to swimming and preparation for his future career goals, Welle’s life has not been entirely two-dimensional.
Welle met senior biology major Kelsey McQuilkin in his Core 150 discussion group as a freshman and they are now engaged to be married this summer.
Spending time with Welle is not always done in the most conventional ways.
“We’ll spend a lot of time studying together, but I think we’re both good about setting aside time to get away from school or swimming to hang out with each other,” McQuilkin said.
McQuilkin also said that she did not feel out of place with the swim team and has been able to spend time with Welle in the context of his teammates.
With Sumnicht and Welle devoting so much time to their studies in pursuit of their career goals to be medical professionals, Sumnicht said that swimming still comes in at a close second on their priority list.
“We put our heart and soul into the sport and into the Whitworth athletic program for all four years and by then it’s very costly: emotionally and energetically,” Sumnicht said. “We’re kind of content to be done and there’s definitely goals that we wish we had fulfilled that we might not have,…but I think his goal all along was to go to medical school and I think that he’s happy because he’s gotten into his top choice, in OHSU.”
Next year Welle heads off to medical school at OHSU. McQuilkin will join him as they both pursue medical careers.
Contact Connor Soudani at email@example.com