Inside the heart of Panzer Athletic Center, the smell of chlorine lingers in the dimly-lit locker room, only intensified by the piles of colored towels and rows of hanging Speedos. In the middle of the room, Tori Holzberg sits in a rounded chair, her hair neatly combed, but still dripping onto her dry clothes as she speaks.
With her petite frame outlined in her comfy, after-practice attire, Holzberg looks up to the ceiling, trying to piece together her fading memories about how swimming first became a part of her life, though there is no questioning the major role it currently plays in her college career.
“Well, I took lessons,” said Holzberg. “My mom used to swim, so she wanted us, well, me and my sister, to do the same.”
With her familial ties to the sport, Holzberg always found room in her adolescent schedule for swimming and always enjoyed doing so, whether it was on a club team or her high school team. However, though Holzberg knew she would follow in her brother’s footsteps and attend Montclair State, she did not see herself in the pool each day before class or heading to meets after.
In fact, when she began to contemplate the future, swimming was not a part of the big picture and when she enrolled in the university, Holzberg’s name was absent from the team’s roster. Though she could not complain about the work for her major, Fashion Studies, or the new friends she was making, Holzberg could not help feeling that there was something missing.
“I didn’t swim my freshman year of college here, but I missed it. So I reached out to coach at the end of freshman year, talked to him, came back sophomore year to swim for Montclair State and here we are,” said Holzberg.
In time for her sophomore year, Holzberg had secured herself a spot on the women’s swim team and could not be more excited to jump back in the pool. At the end of her second September at Montclair State, she did just that as one of many swimmers that would soon compete side-by-side as Red Hawks in the New Jersey Athletic Conference against schools from across the state.
Since her first meet with the team, Holzberg has taken a great sense of pride in pulling on her red and black suit just before she steps out onto the deck. By wearing the colors of her university and stepping into the pool, Holzberg is not only representing Montclair State as a Division III athlete, but continuing a passion she has enjoyed for as long as she can remember.
“I just enjoyed it more than I did anything else,” said Holzberg. “I played softball, did gymnastics and swam. Those were my three main hobbies and then I kind of ― honestly, I was just too scared of gymnastics and I felt like softball wasn’t enough physical activity. So I wound up just cutting those both out and just doing swimming. I just enjoyed it. My mom got me into swimming, but then I stuck with it.”
Though she has been a swimmer for the majority of her life, Holzberg admits that she would never be able to handle the amount of work and dedication expected of her if it was not for her teammates. Together, she shared, they have become more of a family than anything else, something Holzberg would not trade for the world.
Despite the official separation of the men’s and women’s teams in competition, Holzberg mentioned the bond the two share at practice and even outside the pool. “I would say that we’re all so lucky because we’re a co-ed team,” said Holzberg. “There’s men’s soccer and there’s women’s soccer and they can communicate and hang out. But we’re forced to be together everyday and it’s really fun being able to be really close with the guys because it’s just [a different experience form other teams].”
At the end of the day, Holzberg recognizes that, though it may not seem like it at times, her main reason for attending the university was her academics. In such regard, she plans to take an internship following this season to fulfill the final requirements for her graduation in May.
While her plans still remain “up in the air,” Holzberg does not feel as though her strong connection to the pool will continue in the near future. “I’m trying to get a job first,” said Holzberg. “I’m not going to graduate knowing that I’ll be involved in swimming, but if it worked out where I had a job and some free time to help out, I would be willing.”
Still, looking back at all that she has accomplished both at Montclair State and throughout her life as a whole, Holzberg noted that swimming will always be a part of who she is and where she is going. In the future, wherever life may take her, Holzberg knows she will definitely be making a splash.