Inspired by her 87 year old grandpa who had finally reached all 50 states and her mom who had already swum a mile in nearly half of them, UWM alumnae Emily Mcclellan (BS ‘14) set her own goal: to swim a mile in all 50 states by her 25th birthday. With just 22 days before her big day and 19 states to reach, she sat down to make a plan and hit the road!
Emily’s first stop was Kentucky, followed by Tennessee and South Carolina before she worked her way up the coast. She then traveled to Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, until she finally made it to Maine. To complete the loop of the eastern states, Emily then headed to New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
After a quick stop at home in Delavan, Wisconsin for an oil change, Emily headed west to North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon…and hoped to see as many National Parks as possible in the process! (While in Montana visiting Yellowstone National Park, she had all sorts of excitement—including horseback riding, whitewater rafting on the Yellowstone River, and running from bears while trying to get to the tiny house where she was staying.)
Emily’s final stops were Idaho and Oregon, where she swam the day before her birthday. Though she still had not reached Alaska, Emily was incredibly proud of how far she had come and how much she had accomplished. After putting nearly 10,000 miles on her car over the course of a month, her adventure was complete.
Aside from being in a better place with swimming, Emily herself was in a much better place. She returned home with a newfound self-confidence and sense of happiness that had been lost after what she considered a disappointing performance in her second Olympic Trials in June 2016, a year before her trip. Emily explained, “I set the bar pretty high for myself and sometimes that means failure. In this case, I didn’t make it to all 50 states…yet. But it’s not the failure of the goal that defines me, it’s what I learned along the way that does. Swimming created so many opportunities, including the ability to travel. I am eternally grateful for all of the people that swimming brought into my life.” Her final thoughts? “When it comes to living life, please don’t keep saying, ‘I’ll do it someday.’ Go while you can because you aren’t guaranteed that time later. Find your own adventure!”