BYU senior swimmer Michelle Menezes (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
Senior Michelle Menezes has been destined for BYU swimming since the day she was born. With a BYU hall of fame mother and a Olympian father, Michelle was bred for collegiate excellence. And that’s exactly what she has accomplished.
“My parents both swam for BYU,” BYU senior Michelle Menezes said. “That’s where they met, fell in love and got married. BYU’s in my blood.”
Menezes came to BYU as a true freshman and immediately started to stand out for her talents. In her first year, she was named to the All-Mountain West Conference Team for her efforts in the 500 and 1650 free during the season. She finished fourth at the MWC Championships in the 1650 with a time of 17:02.81 and swam the third leg of the 800 free relay team at the MWCC that took first place. She also held the BYU top time of the season in the 1650 free with her performance at the MWCC (17:02.81).
Her sophomore year was a similar story. She was again named to the All-MWC Team for her performance in the 500 free at the MWC Championships. She finished eighth in the 500 free at MWCC with a final time of 4:57.96. She was also ranked second in both the 500 and 1650 free on the season for the Cougars.
Last season, Menezes took first in the 1000 free in crucial meets against UNLV, New Mexico and University of Utah. She was ranked second in the team for her 1000 free time of 10:21.49. She also received the prestigious award of MWC Academic All-Conference award as well as the MWC scholar athlete award.
Saying that Menezes is well rounded might be an understatement. This is not only a result of good breeding, but also hard work and dedication.
“She has great things to contribute in the distance,” BYU Associate head coach Stan Crump said. “She’s versatile and has very nice strokes. She could really do well in anything she trains for, but we’ve kept her in distance.”
Menezes is the second of two girls in her family. Her older sister, Natasha, swam for BYU and graduated last year as a five-time Mountain West Conference champion.
“I really admire and look up to Michelle,” Natasha Menezes said. “She’s doing great this year and I think she is proving to herself how talented she is and what her true potential is.”
Both Menezes sisters grew up swimming the same events, and coming to BYU didn’t change anything.
“I never felt overly-competitive with my sister,” Menezes said. “Natasha is a great swimmer and I loved swimming the same events with her. When I came to BYU, the coaches kind of wanted me to branch out, but I’ve always loved distance and I wanted to keep with it.”
Competing with a sister in every event could potentially lead to some bad blood and sibling rivalry, but not for the Menezes sisters.
“I actually loved racing with Natasha,” Menezes said. “I never thought of it as racing against her because I’d always be cheering her on in my head as I was swimming and she’d do the same for me.
“It was almost comforting having her on the blocks with me every race. That’s what I miss the most this year, having my sister around and racing with her.”
Menezes decided in the eighth grade that she wanted to take swimming seriously and pursue it further than high school. She joined the Greenwood Club team after moving to Colorado. This experience pushed her harder than she had ever been pushed.
“My club team coach was the most intense coach I’d had up to that point and it was definitely an adjustment,” Menezes said. “I am grateful for the discipline, but it also made me appreciate my high school coach who provided such a positive environment for me and really built up my confidence.”
Menezes attended Cherry Creek high school and prepped under coach Erick Craven. Her biggest accomplishment in high school was when she won the title of state champion for the 500 free her senior year. Her high school team won the state championships three years in a row, a feat her current team has also accomplished.
“We really want to win the MWC Championship again this year,” Menezes said. “I know we can do it, we just need to continue to work hard and really pull together as a team. Last year our motto was ‘do it for each other’ and it definitely still applies.”
Menezes has a great deal of pride in her school and everything that comes with the BYU experience.
“I always wanted to go to BYU because of my parents,” Menezes said. “When my sister began swimming for BYU, I though about being a little rebellious and going against the grain by looking into the Utah swim program. That didn’t last long though. I knew I was supposed to come and swim for BYU.”
Coach Crump and head coach Tim Powers both coached Menezes’ parents and have kept in close contact with them throughout the years.
“Melanie (the Menezes’ mother) was my first All-American here at BYU,” Crump said. “She was feisty and had speed as well as endurance. I definitely see those qualities in Michelle with her distance races.”
Menezes’ father, Ron, came from Brazil to swim for BYU where he met his wife, Melanie.
“My parents were and still are really close with coach Crump and Powers,” Menezes said. “Coach Powers actually baptized my dad. Both coaches like to take credit for me and my sisters existence.”
“We’ve kept an eye on the Menezes sisters as soon as they started swimming,” Crump said. “We’ve loved being able to stay in contact with their parents and be updated on how the girls were swimming.”
Michelle has grown up with coach Crump and Powers as excellent examples and motivators for her swimming. She is especially grateful for her parent’s support, not only in swimming but everything she does.
“When it comes to swimming, my dad helps with the technical stuff and my mother is more nurturing,” Menezes said. “It’s the perfect balance. It didn’t matter that they were both really good swimmers because they always told me growing up that I could pursue whatever I wanted. Even now, they tell me that if I didn’t want to swim anymore, they’d support whatever I wanted to do.”
Luckily for the team, Menezes had no intention of leaving, but she is interested to see what life will be like without BYU swim.
“It’s weird to think of going to school but not being on the team because that’s all I’ve ever known,” she said.
Menezes is currently studying communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in Spanish. She plans to graduate in 2012 and will be spending this summer in Washington D.C. for an internship opportunity.
“I love working in PR, and believe it or not, I’m actually excited to be able to focus more on school outside of swimming,” Menezes said.
Although she is looking forward to the future, Menezes is currently focused on the present as the conference championships near.
“Right now, my biggest struggle is staying motivated in this last run of the season and not focusing on the negatives of my past,” she said. “I just need to stay positive and focus on enjoying what’s going on now.”
Menezes is excited for the future, but will miss the girls on the team and the memories she has made with them.
“The senior girls and I are a really tight group and have been since freshman year,” Menezes said. “We were our own little group coming to BYU and Stan would call us his ‘little brats’.
“Some of my favorite memories with the girls on the team are when we travel. Something happens when you put all of us in a van for a few hours. We just get super hyper and sing really loud pretty much the whole time.”
Menezes also misses the days where she lived with and swam with her sister.
“Michelle has always been my best friend,” Natasha said. “Friends come and go but sisters are consistent throughout the years. There’s a great deal of loyalty and trust between us and we’ll always be close.”
As conference championships near, Menezes is excited to have the opportunity to end her BYU swim career with a bang.
“I just want to contribute and swim well,” Menezes said. “We have a big goal as a team to win the championship, but its definitely possible. I want to be a part of that win and be able to get good times in my own individual events. This is my last chance to swim my best and I definitely want to take advantage of that.”
Menezes has the support of family and friends who believe she will accomplish the very best.
“The advice I would give Michelle is to enjoy all of your experiences right now,” Natasha said. “Once it ends, you won’t have another chance to live as a colligate athlete. I know it’s hard, but you can’t focus on the worldly pressures. You need to enjoy what you are doing now and have fun.”
Menezes has a lot on her horizon both in school and swimming. Although she will eventually be putting down her suit, she will be picking up a new life and endless career possibilities.
“I was a little unsure about BYU my first year, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this is exactly where I needed to be,” Menezes said. “I just needed to figure out for myself what I was doing here and I could not be more grateful for the experiences I’ve had while at BYU.
“I look back and still can’t believe everything I’ve done and all the people I’ve met through swimming. I’m sad to have it all end, but I look forward to keeping in contact with all of my friends and coaches as I start a new focus in my life.”