By Riley Missel//USA Swimming Communications Intern | Thursday, April 6, 2017
Kick, pull, kick, pull. Flip, push, kick. A familiar rhythm to swimmers. One thing USA Swimming National Team member PJ Ransford of the University of Michigan men’s swimming and diving team knows is rhythm. Since he was five, he’s been in the pool. When he moved from New York to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to study engineering while swimming for the school, the demanding course load blended into harmony with the rhythm of swimming in his life.
Ransford was named the recipient of the 2017 Elite 90 Award last month at the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis. The award is presented to the participating student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average at the each of the NCAA’s 90 championships. The award came as a surprise to Ransford – his mother nearly missed the monumental recognition – because full commitment to school and sport is just part of what he does.
Ransford earned sixth-place in the 1650-yard freestyle at NCAAs, while earning a perfect GPA in the U of M College of Engineering. Alongside him were many successful, studious teammates; he was one of 13 student-athletes on the men's swimming and diving team to receive Academic All-Big Ten honors.
“One of the things the team at Michigan really values is academics,” said Ransford. “We have a team where a lot of people are doing really well in school and really well in swimming.”
At the beginning of each year, the team sets goals and revisits their team cumulative GPA goal every semester. The last few semesters they’ve been at or above the mark they’re shooting for.
Ransford credits his team’s support for much of his success as a student-athlete.
“I take classes with so many of [my teammates], and we study together a lot,” said Ransford. “It’s nice to study with someone before a test who has taken the class before. I try and help out the freshman because I’ve taken a lot of classes that they’re taking. It’s a network of support that I think is really powerful.”
Ransford is the fourth Michigan student-athlete to receive the prestigious academic award since its inception in 2009-10.
“Michigan supports us so well,” said Ransford. “I have a school advisor, a swimming [academic] advisor, and they’re so helpful with everything. I get a lot of support as a student athlete.”
So what’s his secret to becoming one of these Elite 90 student-athletes?
“My parents did a really good job of getting me to understand that getting an education is important, and that I need to find things I enjoy in school and in sport,” said Ransford.
Passion is the secret.
“I love it,” said Ransford. “That’s one of the things that makes it work – if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’re not going to do well.”
He sure must love it, because he’s not stopping anytime soon- Ransford’s future goals include attending graduate school at the University of Michigan as well as making a team for the World Championships this summer.
Kick, pull, kick, pull, flip.