After Leaving Albion an NCAA Champ, Sue Noble (’84) Dives Back Into Swimming

Sue Noble ('84) poses with former Albion president Melvin Vulgamore as he hands her Albion Athletic Hall of Fame plaque. Among Noble's accomplishments were nine Albion swim records, two of which still stand today. Her plaque can be viewed under her maiden name, Leiby, in the Dow Recreation and Wellness Center. (Photo courtesy of Mary Noble.)

Part Two of a two-part mother-daughter Q&A series. Staff writer and Albion swimmer Mary Noble sat down with her mother, Sue Noble (‘84) to discuss her time at Albion as a swimmer and her legacy at the college. Part One can be read here

In 2019, Sue Noble (‘84) is training again for a meet. Noble is a member of Master’s Swimming, a national organized group for adults of all swimming abilities.

Noble has been preparing for the upcoming state meet in Waterford from April 12-14. Her lineup? Back to her favorite distance events, of course: the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyles.

Her training now is a little different than it was back in 1984 as she prepared for two of the biggest meets of her swimming career. She was coming into her last season of swimming at Albion with high expectations for both the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships and NCAA Championships. Both meets would result in personal bests and first-place finishes.

Racing to the finish

Mary Noble: How did you feel during your last MIAAs compared to your first MIAAS?

Sue Noble: I was pretty relaxed during my last MIAAs because I wasn’t going to taper for MIAAs. I was going to wait to taper for nationals. [The team] just tried to move up the ladder because we were stuck in third place behind Hope and Kalamazoo at that point, and I was thinking more teamwise than individually at that point.

MN: What did it mean to be [conference] MVP?

SN: I somewhat knew that would happen…

MN: Oh, okay [laughs].

SN: And it’s a compliment, but I always felt like I worked really hard and I thought it was well-earned. I appreciated it, and it reflected well on our program which was also a nice thing.

Sue, swimming center, prepares nears a lap’s completion in the 1650 meter freestyle at the 1984 NCAA DIII national meet. She went on to place first. (Photo courtesy of Mary Noble.)

MN: Were men and women together at the MIAA competitions?

SN: No, when we went to most of our competitions, we were separate. We always had an assistant coach that went with us most of the time. But MIAAs my senior year was at Albion, so that was fun and made it special.

MN: What were the preparations for Nationals like? Were there other women training with you?

SN: I had another swimmer who was going to Nationals for individual events, and we had two relays that were going. So we had around eight of us, and we trained hard and looked forward to going. Once we got there and most of our events were done, they were ready to move on while I had another full day of competition. That was the only issue that was different, but otherwise we worked together the whole prep time.

MN: How did you feel during your last race?

SN: My last race — which was my mile, and I only had to swim it in the evening — goes back to MIAAs. I had done surprisingly well and made a big drop although I hadn’t completely tapered, but I had stopped lifting. I made a great drop and that placed me third going in [to Nationals], so I was in a great position in the pool. I had been disappointed with my other swims so this was it. I was going to go for it and it went very well. I was excited, and I know my family was excited. It was a relief and also a culmination of a lot of effort.

MN: What was the recognition like back at school?

SN: Most of my professors knew I was the bedraggled one in class, and they were very supportive. I had great response[s]. My housemates were also on the Pleiad so they supported me by interviewing me, and I had some great spreads, and someone else did a nice interview and I was in the “Io Triumphe!.” I had some good PR. I think I did okay.

MN: When was your Albion Athletic Hall of Fame induction?

SN: You have to wait 10 years before you are eligible, and I think there were so few women who had done well and Title IX required a balance in men’s and women’s sports, so finally there was a new wave of women who had done well in the MIAA… It was 1994 when i was inducted.

MN: Were there other athletes included in your induction?

SN: Yes. There were a number of other athletes, and there was another swimmer who had done different things at the MIAA level. But it was different to have someone who had gone onto the national level at NCAAs.

Diving Back In

Sue and Mary Noble pose for a picture after Mary’s Senior Day performance on Albion’s swim and dive team. Mary took first in the 1000 yard freestyle in the dual meet against Alma College. (Photo courtesy of Mary Noble.)

MN: Did you know you wanted to do more swimming after your college career?

SN: No, no, and that’s been the thing that I’ve learned: That I do enjoy swimming, and I hope other people don’t give up on their sports and they keep going. With Master’s swimming —I don’t know if it’s unique to our sport —that you can keep going and you find some people who have never [swam] before, and they just decide they want to learn and compete. And other people who have done their collegiate careers, DI through DIII, and they want to keep competing. It’s a great way to meet people who are like-minded.

MN: Did you always want me to swim?

SN: Yeah, well I always enjoyed the sport, and I knew it gave me so much, and you loved being in the water. When we moved, it was an outlet that we could find you something to do and a way to make friends. That was the most important thing.

Having you compete, I had to learn to be a parent rather than a coach. So you know, your being on the team helped me decide that I had to go back and be a swimmer again, rather than sitting there and trying to coach you, because that wasn’t my job. You can’t be a parent and a coach when there’s already a coach. For me, it allowed me to find the joy of being on a team again and working out. It was a good way for us to reconnect, too.

MN: How is it having a different kind of nervousness when you are watching me swim versus swimming yourself? I’ve found that even watching teammates swim makes me nervous, and when I watched you swim at the Master’s state meet I felt nervous then, too.

SN: I think you’re nervous because you want them to do what they set out to do, and you don’t want them to be disappointed. You want only the best and you want the smile at the end. The worst part is that you have no control. You just have to encourage them and do it in a positive way, and sometimes it’s really hard not to say something. They have to be their own athlete, and they have to do what they’ve been taught to do. Sometimes as parents we forget that. Sometimes saying nothing is what is needed. But it’s hard to deal with the nervousness, and that’s why at swim meets parents are shouting and screaming and, as a swimmer, you know that your child cannot hear you, but it helps you release that nervousness. You just want them to do well.

MN: What are your last thoughts about swimming overall?

SN: I think it’s just important that if you decide to be on a team that you do the best you are able to do, and you are aware of the needs of your team. Also, when you finish your collegiate careers, in whatever your sport is, you try to stay fit and healthy, and if it means you can still do that sport, you should continue on. I think that’s really important.

About Mary Noble 5 Articles
Mary Noble is a senior born in Fargo, ND, now based in Bay City, MI. She is a Spanish and English - Professional Writing double major, is a member of the swim team, and a sister of Kappa Delta sorority. In her spare time she's planning her next adventure abroad or binge watching Netflix.

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