July 11, 2012
By Kelsie Franklin
AUBURN - Imagine finding out you were eligible to swim in the world championships to qualify for the Olympics about a month beforehand. Well, that's what happened when Auburn swimmer Megan Fonteno and her dad researched her Samoan heritage last year.
"I found out about a month before that I was going to be able to go," explained Fonteno. "So, last summer I swam in the world championships in China. That gave me a one-in-two shot of swimming in the Olympics this summer. It was between me and another girl, and they chose me."
Fonteno was born on an American Military base in Okinawa, Japan. After living there and all over the United States, her family settled down in Florida, where she attended The Bolles School in Jacksonville. Fonteno says she was prepared for the life of a student athlete.
"The main man is Coach Sergio. He is amazing," said Megan. "He has a great swimming background and great coaching skills. He makes us one big family, kind of like college, and it prepared us well."
After admitting that Auburn wasn't exactly on her map for college, she knew after her visit it was where she was supposed to me. Auburn's family atmosphere and great athletic program was what she had been preparing herself for.
"When I got here it was beautiful," said Fonteno. "Throughout the weekend I was learning about the people, the coaching staff, and just the atmosphere around this place. It just felt like home- another home away from home. Everyone seemed like a big family, and that's why I came here."
Fonteno was busy getting acclimated her freshman year at Auburn, but the highlight of this past year has been being a part of a team.
"Swimming is seen as an individual sport, but I don't see it that way in college," explains Fonteno. "We act like a family more than anything else. Always rooting each other on and cheering."
Another highlight of Fonteno's? Having an SEC medal after swimming on the victorious 400 freestyle relay team at the conference championship.
"It was amazing. I messed up the AU thing when we won, but it was great, I can't even describe it," said Fonteno. "Auburn had the biggest cheering section out of anyone there. All the families stood up and were doing the AU sign with the coaches and the team. They were all cheering us on when we climbed the podium. It's probably the best swimming experience I've had so far."
She earned All-SEC honors at the meet and went on to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Championships, helping Auburn to a 12th-place finish in the 800 freestyle relay.
This summer Fonteno looks forward to having more memories and new experiences at the 2012 Olympics. As the only swimmer representing American Samoa, she's not nervous at all, but more excited to have the opportunity.
"I know I physically might not be around as many people as I am here, but I know in my heart that back at home I'll have the support that I always have," said Fonteno. "Hopefully I'll see the other Auburn swimmers around the pool deck. It will be nice to know that part of my family is there with me."