Welcome back to another edition of Rookie of the Week, where we introduce first-year athletes making a major impact in their chosen sport. This week, I sat down with Fayanne Smith-Salzburg ’27 of women’s swim and dive, who won the opening two races of her collegiate career. Hailing from Brooklyn, N.Y., Smith-Salzburg discussed her transition away from city life, her favorite event and her strong start to life as a Panther.
Charles Crounse: My first question is one you’ve probably heard many times before — what made you choose Middlebury Swim and Dive?
Fayanne Smith-Salzburg: I was looking at a lot of small liberal arts schools. I’m from Brooklyn and I went to a small high school, so I felt like I wanted to go to a smaller college. I also wanted to explore outside the city even though I do really like it there. I was looking at a lot of NESCACs actually and what sold me on Middlebury was the recruiting trip. It was very organized and everyone was super friendly, and they had lots of planned activities. Middlebury has a well-known name in academics too and I didn’t want to swim Division I since I wanted to prioritize my academics as well as swimming. The team solidified my choice since they were really great, and the coaches were amazing at talking to and welcoming me.
CC: How have you found the transition from Brooklyn to rural Vermont so far?
FSS: It’s definitely a little weird walking outside and not seeing a busy city. I was a little homesick in the beginning, but it’s really beautiful here and I feel like I’ve found good friends, so the transition has been better than I expected. I’m excited for when the season ends and I can explore more of Vermont.
CC: At what point did you decide that you wanted to swim in college?
FSS: At my club team in Manhattan, a lot of the people go on to swim in college. During my freshman year in high school, I was one of the younger ones in my group and I was with a lot of older kids. It was a super fun environment and I realized I would love to have a team like that in college. I like the sport, I’m pretty competitive and I like racing, and I like that having the team keeps me on a good schedule.
CC: Going back even further, how did you get your start in the sport?
FSS: My parents have a story that I always loved the water. My older sister swam for a club team, so they just threw me in there with her. I think it was around third grade that I started competitively swimming. My sister didn’t end up sticking with it but I loved it and just kept progressing from there.
CC: This past week, you raced the 200 yard individual medley, the 100 yard breaststroke and the 200 yard breaststroke. Do you have a favorite of those events?
FSS: I don’t know. Maybe the 100 breaststroke. It changes a lot. The 200 breaststroke is a good event when you’re feeling good, but it’s tough when you’re not feeling great. The 100 is so much shorter that it’s easier to hype yourself up for it because it won’t hurt as much.
CC: You’ve raced two meets. This past weekend you were second, second, and third, and in your opening race you won both races. What was that like?
FSS: It felt good for sure. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was feeling a little under the weather the week before, so I wasn’t even sure I would make the away team because not everyone goes to away meets. It felt good because it felt like I was contributing to the team and it was just good to be racing again.
CC: Looking ahead now, what are you most excited for the rest of the season?
FSS: I’m excited for our dual meets since they’re good racing opportunities to get off the block and see how fast you can go. I enjoyed [the Bomber Invitational] a lot because it was fun to bond with the team and the bus rides were super fun. A specific meet I’m looking forward to is NESCACs just because there are a lot of teams there and it’s the championship. It’s hosted here at Middlebury [this year] which is exciting for us.
CC: Have you had a favorite Middlebury moment?
FSS: I don’t know, it’s hard to pick. I have a funny Middlebury moment. When I was registering for classes, it was during one of our morning practices. Freshmen don’t have the best pick, and Banner9 logged me out a few times, and it wasn’t going very well. I was sitting there and trying to get any classes I could and everyone from the team would come in and give me classes. I was very thankful to be doing it during morning practice. Everyone around was helping out and wanted to make sure I got my classes, which was really sweet. I was there for 45 minutes probably and they were all just giving me [Course Registration Numbers] and helping out, and I ended up getting good classes so it all worked out.
CC: Lastly, is there anything else you want to add or any plugs for meets you want people to see?
FSS: Definitely come to women’s NESCACs, they’re at Middlebury and will be a lot of fun.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Charles Crounse '24 (he/him) is the senior sports editor for the Campus. He has previously worked as a writer and staff editor for the section. Charles is pursuing a major in environmental policy and a minor in French, and in his free time he enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring Vermont. He is also a member of the club soccer team on campus.