“Female Athlete of the Year” reflects on her senior season

Emily Thompson, Sports Editor

Senior swimmer Ellen Gilbert has been well acquainted with the spotlight this year, from the Tommy Awards to the NCAA National Championships. As graduation nears, Gilbert has been reflecting on her last four years as a Titan. 

“As I finish my competitive career, I’m mostly looking back on the relationships I’ve built over the years,” Gilbert told The Argus. “Swimming has given me inspiring role models and lifelong friends.” 

The College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW) Student-Athlete of the Year currently holds the Fort Natatorium pool record in the 100 yard butterfly with a time of 57.91 seconds. Gilbert’s first-place time broke both the Illinois Wesleyan high set in 2018 and her own personal best in February 2022. 

At the same meet, Gilbert took home the gold in the 200 yard freestyle and set herself up for second place overall in the CCIW. But, according to Gilbert, her accomplishments are not the only things that define her.

“My coaches have helped me see the potential in myself and given me the tools to reach that potential. As I move forward in life, I want to be that person for others,” Gilbert said. 

The Northbrook, Ill. native is the first Titan swimmer since 2017 to make it onto the NCAA All-American team thanks to another record-breaking 2.02.00 second swim in the 200 yard butterfly in the National Championship trials. Gilbert’s 2:02.65 second competition time garnered her sixth place in the competition overall and All-American status. 

Earlier this month, Gilbert brought home the Female Athlete of the Year award at the Illinois Wesleyan Tommy Awards.

“There are so many incredible student-athletes at IWU. It was an honor just to be nominated alongside four other women who had phenomenal performances of their own,” Gilbert said about her award. 

On top of winning the CCIW Jack Swartz Award and being named to the Academic All-CCIW list, Gilbert is a legacy name for the Titans. Her older brother, Tommy Gilbert, is a 2012 Titan swimming alumni and has been the Assistant Swimming and Diving Coach for nine years.

“Something I learned from Tommy as a coach is the importance of living in the moment. Whatever we’re doing, he’s present,” Gilbert said. “As a swim coach, I really admire that ability to have fun but also know when it’s time to get serious.”

Gilbert insists she could not have gotten to the point in her collegiate career that she is without the support of her family, friends and coaches. 

“I have so much respect for my fellow teammates and coaches. I truly wouldn’t have rather finished out my collegiate swimming career with anyone else,” Gilbert said. 

Despite her upcoming graduation, Gilbert plans to keep swimming and coaching for the foreseeable future. 

“And, of course, I’ll be ready to represent the Team Alumni at our Homecoming meets,” Gilbert said. 

If you’re interested in seeing Gilbert’s journey throughout the past year, be sure to follow the Instagram account comedically dedicated to her, @ellengilbertfanclub.