While 2012 may be the final year for Melissa Greenaway to swim at Linfield College, the road — or perhaps lane — ahead looks bright.
In May, Greenaway’s pursuit of double major, in economics and political science with a minor in mathematics, will culminate in a degree she hopes will open doors to work in Seattle or Portland in international relations or city planning.
A native of Gresham, Ore., Greenaway remembers visiting Linfield and being excited by the atmosphere and a chance at the college experience.
“The study-abroad program was attractive, and, at a Division III school, I could keep swimming,” says the senior, whose sport has been a part of life since she was nine years old.
“My parents put my brother and I into sports right away.” Greenaway recalls participating in basketball, volleyball, t-ball, swimming, and ballet as a young child.
“I stuck with swimming because that’s what I was best at.” She laughs as she admits, “I have no hand-eye coordination.”
Her coach, Gary Gutierrez, describes her as the kind of girl who might easily be lost in the shuffle because she is quiet and follows directions. However, he is quick to mention that the quality of her work is so outstanding that she does not get skipped over.
“The effort she puts out is hard to miss. She’s not working especially hard because she’s a senior and it’s her last season. She’s working hard because that’s just Melissa.”
Greenaway says that she loves the community of swimmers at Linfield, and points to her coach as the source of that “family” tone. Gutierrez says his goal is to know each member of his team as a person, not just as a swimmer.
“There’s no ‘Coach Gutierrez,’ just ‘Gary,’” he says. “I like to laugh with people and have a more informal, open-door feel.”
As the only senior woman on the team, Melissa finds herself in a unique leadership position, and her coach says that she rises to the occasion beautifully.
“In terms of reading the group dynamic and influencing people to move together in one direction, in a direction they might not want to go, she’s a strong leader on the team,” says Gutierrez. “All that time spent quietly observing over the years has paid off.”
Freshman Taylor Schroeder remembers how Greenaway and the other two captains visited each freshman dorm with a plate of cookies to introduce themselves and welcome the new members of the swim team.
“She’s awesome. She’s one of the best captains I’ve ever had. Melissa genuinely cares about everyone on the team.”
Gutierrez comments that being a good captain is not an easy job, but that Greenaway works tirelessly to keep the group together. He says she has always been mature, bright, organized, disciplined and self-motivated, and pays her a high compliment when he says, “In a sense, she’s been ready to graduate since she got here.”
He continues, “Melissa is kind of a glue person…She has really grown in the subtle, social aspects of leadership since I’ve known her.”
Greenaway recalls being very shy in high school, but says that she has changed over her four years at Linfield. She points to a semester abroad in England during her junior year as a key part of that growth. “I’m much more independent and outgoing now than I was two years ago.”
Because of own metamorphosis, she has the clout to advise the next generation of Wildcats to “Be whoever you want to be; take advantage of that.”
Greenaway, whom Gutierrez describes as “a classic liberal-arts student,” certainly has. In addition to her study abroad experience, she has participated in a wide range of opportunities, from working at an internship in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2011 to training with her former Mt. Hood club team during the winter break.
Gutierrez says this last endeavor has allowed Greenaway to return to school fit and in good shape, and expects a strong finish for her senior season. “She’s a good team member, and it will be hard to see her go.”
“Graduating will be kind of bittersweet,” says Greenaway. “I’m excited to go, to get out into the world, but, at the same time, I’ll miss my friends, and I will really miss swimming. I’m just not quite ready to let go of that yet.”
Thankfully, a few meets remain on her senior schedule. She is using that time to encourage and encourage her teammates and to do her best in every aspect of the college experience before she dives into life beyond Linfield.
-- Lexy Chapman '15