There is more to being a co-captain of the Eastern Michigan University women’s swim and dive team than being a leader in the pool—it is about how you represent yourself outside of it as well.
Senior co-captain Helena Tolic fits the right mold of how a co-captain should represent herself.
Senior co-captain Wesley Blassneck recalled some of the things she and Tolic would do to raise the sprits of the team and its recruits.
“[We] would organize activities for new recruits coming into EMU and do team bonding activities like the posters we made for the upcoming Mid-American Conference championship,” Blassneck said.
Tolic is from Zagreb, Croatia, which is the nation’s capital. She is fluent in five different languages: Croatian, Serbian, English, Italian and Spanish.
Tolic, 22, has one brother: Ivan, who is three years older and swam at West Virginia University.
Her positions are freestyle sprints and the backstroke.
Tolic is majoring in sociology and her minor is in communication. Her favorite class is family communication.
“In family communication, we talk about how close we are as classmates and sharing stories about our lives,” Tolic said.
Before every meet, she helps her fellow teammates get ready by trying to be positive.
“During the sets and when it gets very hard, it is important to tell them that they are doing a good job,” Tolic said. “It helps to boost their confidence, especially when I give them encouragement during a meet.”
She has been swimming for 17 years and said her high school never had a team. As a way to stay involved in swimming, Tolic enrolled in a club school.
“The club high school I attended [Sportska Gimnazjia] was for athletes only,” she said. “I swam for them once a day, six times a week, which equals 10 hours.”
During recruitment, Tolic considered going to Indiana University or Florida International University in addition to EMU.
“The reason why I chose EMU was because the other schools were not as consistent with returning emails as coach [Peter Linn] was, so the decision became a no-brainer,” she said.
Tolic said Linn gave a good first impression.
“He sounded very nice through the emails and I accepted his scholarship, so that also contributed to my decision of coming here,” she said.
Once she was recruited to EMU, the adjustment was harder than she thought it would originally be.
“I did not have doubles [two-a-days] until I came to EMU,” she said. “At first it was hard to adjust to 20 hours of swimming my freshman year, but eventually I got used to the demands and the results started to show in my sophomore year.”
Tolic is close friends with her fellow teammate and roommate, sophomore Pauline Vigneron.
“We have very similar backgrounds because she is from Belgium and I am from Croatia, so there is that European connection that blends together,” Tolic said.
Her favorite moment as an EMU swimmer was making the finals in the 200-yard freestyle at last year’s MAC championship.
“Even though it was great to make the final, it was the most stressful time ever as a swimmer,” Tolic said. “I was so nervous going into the race, but once the race started it was a lot of fun to be a part of.”
The one person she looks up to as her favorite athlete and role model is her brother Ivan.
“First off, he is my role model because that’s my brother,” Tolic said. “The way he took swimming and school seriously showed how mentally tough he is, and that is definitely why Ivan is number one.”