Oct. 31, 2003
Three peas in a pot…err…pod
It’s an inside joke between Florida State University swimmers Katie Byrnes, Rachel Dong and Andree-Anne LeRoy. It’s one of many the trio shares, but there is another bond that has brought them closer together.
Even though they come three different parts of the continent-Byrnes from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Dong out of Paramount, Calif. and LeRoy from Nanaimo, British Columbia-the three found themselves in Pullman, Wash., on the campus of Washington State University in the fall of 2000. Like all incoming freshman, college life was going to be a brand new experience that would shape the rest of their lives. But as student-athletes their encounter would be different from that of any ordinary WSU student.
Like all student-athletes, they had to manage their time wisely between classes, practices, weights and the other responsibilities that come with competing in college athletics. What made this different from most student-athlete experiences is that the three were not enjoying their time at Washington State or as Byrnes put it, they weren’t having the same fun tales of college life that their friends back home were enjoying.
After some serious thinking, all three individually decided that it would be best if they left Washington State. Byrnes, Dong and LeRoy were not alone as a total of nine members of the women’s swimming and diving team transferred after the 2001-02 campaign.
When it came time to find a new place to call home, all three had different destinations in mind, but each knew that they had to find a place that made them more comfortable. On three different trips they visited Florida State. For Byrnes it was an opportunity to move closer to home and she had some knowledge of the program from teammates that she swam with on her club and high school teams.
Like Byrnes, Dong wanted a school that reminded her of home. While she had several different options, when it came down to it, Tallahassee was the best fit for this So Cal girl. Initially another Sunshine State school caught LeRoy’s eye, but once she visited with head coach Neil Harper and team her vote had been swayed.
Best friends in the pool and away from competition-the three share an apartment-the trio feels like they have had a weight lifted off their shoulders. Their carefree nature when sitting down for an interview certainly proves that.
Sports Information: Take us through the process from when you decided
to transfer and how you got to Florida State.
Katie Byrnes: I always knew it was coming, but when I finally did it
happened so fast. I did it because I could stand the situation any more.
After I did it was like I had the biggest weight lifted off my shoulder.
When I decided to leave I had my choices narrowed down to here and Miami
because I wanted to come back home to Florida. I went to Miami and wasn't
too impressed. When I came here I felt really comfortable with Neil and the team.
Rachel Dong: I never ever thought in a millions years that I
would transfer. I'm one of those people that when I make a decision
I feel like 'that is it.' I really didn't even consider it. When I
signed my letter (of intent) to Washington State, I thought 'this
is it for four years.' But when all the drama started happening,
we didn't even have enough people to be an official team, and all
my closest friends left, I didn't think I could walk on the pool
deck and give 100 percent. I didn't think I would be able to do it
so I didn't want to stay there if I couldn't do that. I didn't want
to give half the effort.
SID: What schools did you look at?
RD: I thought about going back to California. I also looked Arizona
State and UCLA, but transferring in the PAC-10 is tough because you have
to sit out a year. I also looked at Virginia, Alabama and Florida State.
I thought it was going to come down to Virginia and Florida State.
SID: What made Florida State stand out.
RD: There was something when I was talking to Neil on the phone
that made me feel really comfortable and made me feel that I could talk
to him and when I came here on my trip the people. Something as stupid
as the weather made feel more at home here. I really felt that I could
be myself and be comfortable.
SID: Andree-Anne, you were the closest to home and now you're on
the other side of the country.
Andree-Anne LeRoy: My decision to go to Washington State was kind
of a last minute decision because it was really my only option. I knew since
I was ten years old that I wanted to go to the United States and be a
scholarship athlete. It was the only option at that point in time and I was
going in thinking 'maybe I'll stay here, we'll see how it goes.' I was just
going to go with it. In the end what I think it was was a stepping-stone to
come to Florida State. It opened the door for me to see what was out there.
Things didn't work out at Washington State and I knew after the conference meet
that it wasn'tgoing to work for me there anymore. After the NCAA meet I made my
decision to leave.
SID: What were some of the schools you thought about going to?
A-AL: I looked at various schools, but being so late a lot of
schools had already filled their roster. Like Katie, I looked into Miami
and I talked to a few other schools, but none of them could offer what
I wanted. I went on a recruiting trip to Miami then flew up here after
visiting there. It's kind of ironic because I remember on the plane
that I was on the trip with another gal from Washington State and I
remember telling here 'I'm definitely going to Miami, I don't even know
why I'm going to Florida State.' When I got here my entire prospective
totally changed. The coaching staff, I was very comfortable with them.
That was big advantage because that was kind of an issue that I was
having at Washington State. That was definitely something I was looking
for was to be comfortable with the coaching staff and be able to express
what I wanted and what I needed and to be able to work with the coaches
on a higher level. I didn't get to meet much of the team because I came
kind of late, but from what I saw, and who I met, I felt right at home.
The best way to put it is that it felt right and it was where I wanted
to be. At Washington State I was close to home, but I was ready to make
that move away. I definitely wanted to go somewhere warm.
SID: How much did the three of you talk to each other about
transferring in general and about going to Florida State?
A-AL: We all kind of looked at the same schools eventually. We knew
we had to transfer out of the PAC-10 if we didn't want to sit out a year.
We all wanted to go somewhere warm so we were looking at Florida and Texas
KB: I think it went so fast. There wasn't really much time to think
a whole lot about it. I don't think I really inquired about too much. I didn't
know they were going to come here, it was an added bonus. I thought she (Dong)
was going to go to Arizona. I don't know where I thought you (LeRoy) were going
A-AL: I was also thinking about going back to Canada.
KB: When I found out you guys were going here I was so happy.
SID: Katie, did you have any insight being from Florida and did anybody
ask you about the program?
KB: They did but it was weird because I had never been up here before
until my recruiting trip. There were some swimmers from Fort Lauderdale on my
club team that were up here, but I really wasn't close with them.
A-AL: I remember talking to you about it and because you knew some of the
guys and you were always going on and it was kind of cool because it gave you
an inside look on what was going on.
SID: Did you talk to each other about where you were going, or did you
make your decisions and then you found out about the others?
RD: Katie made her decision first to go to Florida State. Then
Andree-Anne went on her trip with another girl and it took her a little bit of
time to decided between Florida State and Miami. Then I went after all of them,
even after school was out. I came back and said 'I have to go there.' We didn't
plan anything like
'Let's all go together.' It wasn't even really a factor.
A-AL: When I found out they were going there it was definitely such a
bonus because I knew I would have two people that I had already known for two
years and that I was very close with. When you're transferring that's nice to have.
SID: Have you kept in touch with any of your former teammates?
RD: We keep in touch with a lot of those girls because we were a really
close team. It's something that I wouldn't trade. I think we all learn so much
from our time there and we wouldn't take it back for anything, but we're just
glad we get this experience.
SID: Have you talked to the other transfers to see what their experiences
have been like?
KB: I think that...
A-AL: It's been the best for us.
(All three break into laughter)
KB: It's true, I really think that.
A-AL: We've been really lucky
RD: I think a lot of that had to do that we had each other. We didn't plan
on coming together and we didn't realize how much of a benefit and a support it
A-AL: I feel that the three of us are pretty laid back and this is a really
laid back team. Compared to where the other girls went, I don't think it fit them
SID: What was the toughest part of the whole transferring process?
A-AL: I think the hardest thing was that we all came from the same program
where we knew what worked for us. All three of us were very successful in that
program and coming to a new program it's hard to buy into it initially. You know
that certain things worked for you in the past and we would come home a be like
'I can't believe we're doing this' and we had to sit back and remember that we
were at a new place, we're starting over and we have to put blind faith into
the program. We had to forget about what we did at Washington State and move
KB: I had a really hard time with the change. I was so stubborn. I learned
a lot last year. I definitely hit rock bottom, but it was good for me. Now this
year I've come back ready to go and I trust Neil and the coaches. I'm excited.
SID: How were you received by the team?
RD: Oh my god. We had been here a month and felt we like had been here
from the beginning. People would talk about freshmen year and then they would
remember 'Wait, you guys weren't here," but we felt like we had been here for
SID: How big of a benefit has it been to have the three of you here?
KB: I can't even explain it. I don't know what I would have done. Last
year, we talk about this all the time (sarcastically wondering) 'What would I
have done without you guys?'
(All three break into laughter)
RD: Our personality meshed so well. We were close at Washington State,
but we didn't live together and we hung out together sometimes, but it wasn't
every weekend or every day.
KB: We were all close at Washington State, but...
A-AL: We all had separate friends.
KB:Our team was close, but the three of us never really hung out. For
some reason we get along together really well.
RD: Like three peas in a pod.
A-AL: You mean peas in a pot?
A-AL: It's an inside joke. Sometimes I miss things and you know the saying
'peas in a pod' or whatever.
RD: Three peas in a pod.
KB: She also thought it was 'Roll, Roll, Seminole Way.'
(Even more laughter)
A-AL: I would definitely consider that these two have evolved into my
sisters. We had a bond at Washington State, but it really solidified when we
got here. We've been through so much now in the past four years.
RD: College is time when you grow as a person anyway. You change a lot.
Being able to have these girls here to share that with and coming from freshman
year to senior year all the way together has been...(pretending to be emotional)
KB: I feel like we've been dragged through the dirt.
RD: Tied to the back of a truck.
KB: It's been hard.
RD: It's been a rough haul.
KB: Our time at Washington State was hard.
A-AL: It was character building.
KB: It was definitely character building and coming here last year was
hard too as far as a change.
A-AL: Being here is so much better because of all the things that we
went through. I remember training camp last year, we couldn't believe it. It
was like a vacation. It was so fun and everyone was having a good time.
KB: We worked hard, but it was so much fun.
A-AL: We enjoyed ourselves and when it really comes down to it, in the
end, that's what it's all about. In college it's about getting the most out
of it, but having fun doing it. We're definitely getting that here.
SID: Have you thought about what if you had stayed?
A-AL: I don't want to think about that.
KB: I really haven't thought about it.
RD: I have. Talking to the people who are still back there, if would
have stayed, I would have hated it. You come back home the summer after your
freshman year and all of your friends are saying 'college is so great, it's
so much fun.' I thought maybe that's now how it is for Division I athletes.
It's so hard and it's a good time, but it's so intense that you can't go out
and enjoy it. That's such a lie. You should be able to enjoy it no matter what.
I felt like we finally got to experience that here.
A-AL: We are so thankful.
KB: I remember at Washington State coming back from every vacation bawling
'I don't want to go back, I don't want to go back,' but now I'm like 'Let's go
back early.' (Laughter) Seriously, I don't know what the heck I would have done
if I had stayed there. It would have been...
A-AL: I don't think we were meant to stay there.
RD: The whole rush and the excitement has worn off because we've been
here a year, but just because want we went through there, every day and everything
we get to do here is such a blessing. I'm so thankful that we have this
opportunity and for the people who made this possible.
A-AL: I remember last year when we were training outdoors, I had never
trained outdoors before, I was sitting there thinking 'this is life right here.
I can't believe I'm here. This is so cool.' I love it. I never felt like that
at Washington State.
SID: All three of you are happy with your decision?
KB: Oh my gosh, can't you tell?
RD: My mom doesn't have to send me care packages in the mail anymore.
(One more laugh)