By Will Sahlie
AUBURN, Ala. - Maggie Bowen chose Auburn before any championships had been won. When Bowen decided to attend Auburn, the Tigers' swimming program was known mainly for its men's success.
After years of sacrifice and hard work, Bowen led Auburn to back-to-back women's national championships in 2002-03, helping change the narrative about Auburn's women's swimming program.
"My years and leading up to the first national championship were really groundbreaking," Bowen said. "It changed the dynamic, and the whole country's view of Auburn swimming.
"We took it from a 'women's combined program, but the men are the main team,' to recognizing the women as really good. People started to see the women as the best team in the country. For all of the girls, we took a lot of pride in how hard we worked."
Bowen, an Auburn swimmer from 1999-2003, earned SEC Swimmer of the Year honors in 2001, 2002 and 2003. She captained Auburn's national championship teams in 2002 and 2003.
"Having David (Marsh) as a coach, and being on a team with the men's program, their goal was to win NCAAs," Bowen said. "We wanted that for us, too. Our coaches did such a good job of raising the bar.
"My junior year was the first time we won NCAAs. We won again my senior year. The next year they won again, and they won a couple more years after that. It was special."
Along with Auburn's tremendous team success, Bowen set several individual records, including an American record in the 200-yard and 400-yard individual medley relays.
Bowen, who was inducted into the Auburn Swimming and Diving Hall of Fame in 2013, said that coming to Auburn was the best decision she has ever made.
"I'll give myself the credit that I was pretty recruited in the swimming world," Bowen said. "I gave some other schools the opportunity to sell themselves. Ultimately, I chose Auburn because Mimi (Bowen's sister) was there.
"I've never regretted it. It was the best choice I've ever made. I knew there was going to be greatness in my future with Auburn."
Bowen, who now works for Signature HealthCARE in Louisville, Ky., carries Auburn with her in everything she does.
"One of the things you feel when you go to Auburn is you are a part of something bigger," Bowen said. "Your sense of self doesn't necessarily matter as much as what you are a part of. At Auburn, I was a part of something good and I think that has carried over into
my whole life.
"I feel like I am always an asset to my employer because I care about the bigger picture. That is a huge part about Auburn. You care more about Auburn than about yourself.
"The Auburn Creed, every word of it, you can apply to everything in your life. I'm always so proud in any conversation to say I went to Auburn. I say that every chance I get."