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Rebecca Moynihan was intrigued by medicine and fell in love with swimming. A native of New Zealand, Moynihan felt the options weren’t nearly as good back home compared to attending a U.S. college. She began her college career at Florida Gulf Coast before deciding to transfer and seeking a more competitive swim program at Florida State.

“I ended up at Florida Gulf Coast. I spent two years there and had a great time,” Moynihan said. “But I felt like I was looking for a bigger team, a bigger school that really was focused on excelling in both areas of academics and athletics. And so I went back to the transfer portal and was looking at other schools. And I found myself really falling in love with Florida State and the messages they have, and the goals they’re trying to achieve. And I felt that it was a really great fit for me.”

FSU swimming coach Neal Studd made some phone calls in an effort to learn more about Moynihan. He of course saw her times in the pool but was curious about her attitude and work ethic.

“I knew quite a few people that knew her and just incredible recommendations from people about her attitude and work ethic,” Studd said. “That made me feel really good about trying to bring her here. She’s a great leader. She’s not the loudest leader but she leads by example every day and works hard and she’s seen results because of it too.”

Two years later, Moynihan is graduating from Florida State this weekend with a degree in biology and plans to enroll in grad school in August. She will likely be taking classes in public health as preparation for her goal of going to medical school.

“I’ve always had a strong passionate passion for caring for others and throughout high school I’ve sort of had a big interest in the sciences,” Moynihan said. “I like figuring out how life works, how our bodies work. And I felt like medicine is a way that both caring and science comes together.

“I really want to be a pediatrician. I really love working with kids. And I think I would really enjoy that role.”

Moynihan has big plans in the classroom and the pool. This summer she will attempt to qualify for New Zealand’s Olympic team, but due to the pandemic will likely do so at an approved event either in the U.S. or The Bahamas ahead of the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. Moynihan has set personal-best times in the 2020-21 season in the pool in the 50 freestyle (22.38), 100 free (49.26) and 200 free (1:51.06).

“I’ve always just had a real knack for it and it’s been my best stroke,” Moynihan said. “And I think that’s probably why I enjoy it the most. In terms of why sprinting over distance, I love just going as fast as you can. And every race, I’m not very good at pacing and learning how to control a race. I’d rather just go as hard as you can and to touch the wall. And so I really enjoyed that thrill.”

Moynihan said it was important for her to be able to swim at FSU while pursuing her master’s degree. She knows that will be a challenge but appreciates the support of the academics advisors as well as Studd and the coaching staff, who have been able to build in breaks within the training schedule if Moynihan needs extra time to focus on her classes. 

The opportunities Moynihan has had at Florida State to earn her bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s have given her a significant appreciation for her scholarship.

“I’m just so grateful,” Moynihan said. “This opportunity has been life changing. It would not have happened without the scholarship and I just can’t even describe in words how grateful I am and to know that they believe in me. To give me that scholarship is just amazing. I’ve had the best two years here at Florida State and I’m excited for one more. And I just think it’s changed me as a person for the better. And I just want to say a big thank you.”

While this has been a difficult year for college athletes, who have had to undergo strict COVID protocols and frequent testing, the NCAA has allowed for an added year for them to compete. FSU’s boosters have stepped up to cover the added scholarship expenses as rosters have swelled with “super seniors” who, like Moynihan, will be enjoying a fifth athletic season.

But the reward is helping Moynihan pursue her dreams in the classroom and in the pool.

“It’s perhaps the silver lining in the whole COVID year here is you kind of get a redo year and for her it means starting her masters as well,” Studd said. “So it’s kind of a win-win. We’re super excited that she has another year. She means the world to me personally and to the program. I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do with this extra year.”