Favorite athlete: Missy Franklin
Favorite team: The Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: The last night of our training trip, each grade performed skits about the team.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Sometimes my coach puts divers in our exhibition relays for fun, and one of my friends, who is not the strongest swimmer, could not get out of the pool after her leg of the relay. The other girls in the relay tried to pull her out so that the final girl could finish.
Music on mobile device: Folk music is my favorite but I love mostly all music
Future plans: Studying biomedical engineering
Words to live by: "I am sure what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us."
One goal before turning 30: Travel, possibly live in a different country for a little while
One thing people don’t know about me: I am learning to play the guitar
By Craig Ostroff
As a freshman, it’s imperative to make a good impression. That means always giving your best efforts, and never missing practice.
Of course, maintaining perfect attendance can present its fair share of issues when you’re not old enough to drive and swim practices start early in the mornings.
So on mornings when then-frosh Liz Medvedev couldn’t get a ride into school for practice, she’d find other options. Most of the time, that meant biking to practice … often before sunrise … occasionally in sub-freezing temperatures (and then biking home from weekend practices).
“I had never had practices in the mornings before,” Medvedev said. “I knew I wanted to get better and I knew that meant getting to every practice, no matter what it took. There wasn’t always someone available to take me, and most of my friends were also freshmen and I didn’t want to burden their parents in the mornings to pick me up that often, so I took matters into my own hands.
“Saturdays were the hardest because they’re really hard practices. So getting up, getting ready, and having to ride my bike in for what I knew was going to be a tough practice, that was not my favorite thing. But once I got there, then I’m ready to go.”
The same drive to improve and passion for the sport that pushed her as a freshman is also part of what makes her an ideal leader as a senior and captain of this year’s Upper Dublin girls’ swim team.
“Liz really is a coach’s dream athlete,” said longtime Cardinals’ coach Pat Redican. “She comes in every day, she’s very determined, she sets goals for herself, she’s detailed in the way she approaches swimming, and she understands the sport.”
One of the shorter members of a team that boasts several swimmers who stand around 6-feet tall, Medvedev has heard the occasional joke about her height. Redican even admits to some lighthearted kidding that Medvedev is the “inner doll in a set of Russian nesting dolls.”
But that’s an apt metaphor as well. Few others represent the heart and soul of a team that has dominated the Suburban One American Conference for the past three decades as well as Medvedev does.
“She really is a determined young lady,” Redican said. “She’s had her share of close calls. She’s dealt with things that might have made other kids give up. Missing districts by one place twice in a row by tenths of a second, that’s a killer, especially in the 500 free. But she’s never given up. She refocuses, she bounces back every time. And she has such a big heart. That’s what makes her stand out to me.
“Every year I have the girls fill out goal sheets for the beginning of the year and second half, and in the second half, I ask them who they admire on the team. Almost from day one, Liz was getting a lot of comments from her teammates that they look to because of her work ethic and determination and the way she bounces back.”
Medvedev admits she’s had to bounce back more often than she’d care to count. She’s always had a tendency to set extremely lofty goals for herself. When she achieves them, that’s a fantastic accomplishment. When she doesn’t, Medvedev is level-headed enough to learn from them and use them to motivate her the next time.
“I think somewhere around 11 years old, it was like a switch turned on in me,” she said. “Since then, I’ve been like that in every aspect of my life.
“I’ve always had really ambitious goals, and I can probably count on one hand when I’ve reached those goals. I have a goal in my head, whether it’s in swimming or something else. In swimming, I see the time I want to swim, I visualize the time I want to get at the end of the season. I’ve had my share of disappointments in races and bad practices and meets, but I continue to do what I do, no matter how many times I’ve been knocked down.”
In fact, it was the loftiest of goals that ignited Medvedev’s passion for swimming in the first place.
“When I was maybe 9 years old, I was really into figure skating,” she said. “I wanted to be an Olympic figure skater. When it became apparent that that wasn’t going to happen, all I knew was that Olympians began their sports at very young age. The only other sport I was doing since I was really young was swimming. So from then on, I was going to be an Olympic swimmer.”
While a trip to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games may not be in her future, Medvedev is hardly looking that far ahead. She’s too focused on this season as she and her Cardinal teammates seek a remarkable 30th consecutive Suburban One American Conference Championship and prepare to make another strong showing at Districts and States.
Being named a captain on this year’s team was “natural,” according to Redican. According to Medvedev, however, it ranks among her most prized achievements.
“On college essays, I often write it down as one of my biggest accomplishments,” she said. “Swimming is very important to me and being elected captain means I’m doing things the right way as a person and as an athlete.
“I was never one of the fastest swimmers on the team, so I always felt the best way to contribute was to be a role model if I could, to try to help push the others to be best they can be. To have that recognized and be named a captain, that really means so much to me.”
It’s also pushed Medvedev to up her game higher than she thought possible.
“I always try to give my best every practice, every meet,” she said. “I really thought that I could not be trying any harder. But this year I feel like I’ve risen farther above even my standards. I feel people are looking up to me more, so I have to make sure I’m doing what I need to be doing as a captain and a senior.”
“Part of what makes Liz such a natural captain is that everyone is comfortable approaching her, and vice versa,” Redican said. “I can go to her and say, ‘How do you think the team would feel about this?’ And she’s usually right, because she has a great sense of how her peers work.
“Some captains are good with the ‘rah rah.’ That’s not really Liz. She’s definitely become more vocal as a leader this year, but it’s more the encouragement. The girls can look over in practice and see her plugging away, and when they see her going and going, that makes them go, too.”
In addition to her new role as a captain, Medvedev has also had to adapt to a new primary event this year. Having focused on middle distance in the past, Medvedev has already qualified for Districts in the 100 breaststroke, and has her sights set on qualifying for a second event, possibly in the 200 free or 200 IM.
“Obviously the team always comes first,” she said. “But for me, I’d love to be able to qualify for Districts in a second event. And making States in the 100 breast, that’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a freshman. It always seemed out of reach, but this year I think it’s possible if I do everything right. I want to end the season really well, since this is my last season of high school swimming.”
Medvedev’s high school swimming career could have ended in yellow and blue rather than red and white. Medvedev was a part of Cheltenham School District’s swim program in middle school, as her home district of Jenkintown did not have a swim team. Her family (Medvedev is the eldest of four siblings) moved to Upper Dublin in the middle of eighth grade.
“I kind of blocked that half-year out of my life,” she said with a laugh, before adding, “I found a little group of friends right away. Some of the classes were ahead of the ones I was coming from, and some were behind, so I was bored in one class and behind in the next. But I can’t say I was unhappy or stressed out. It was a tough transition, but it wasn’t anything too awful.”
It should come as no surprise that Medvedev attacks her schoolwork with the same tenacity she possesses in the pool. She’s taking five Advanced Placement classes in her senior year, including AP Art, a class in which she gets to combine two of her passions.
“My concentration for AP Art class is swimming,” said Medvedev, who prefers to use colored pencils but dabbles in multiple mediums. “I’ve taken art as my elective all four years. Freshman year I gravitated toward doing swimming, it’s something that’s on my mind a lot, so I wanted to do swimming pieces. My art teacher told me when I got up to AP Art, I’d have to have a theme for my work. So this year I have to make 12 pieces related to swimming.”
A member of the school’s National Honor Society, Medvedev is looking at studying biomedical engineering in college. Unlike her Olympic aspirations, however, her career path was not something she set at an early age. It’s not something she really even thought about until last year.
“I’ve always been pretty good at math and science, but nothing I saw in school really challenged or interested me enough to think about pursuing it,” she said. “Last year I took an Honors Physics course and the teacher was amazing. It was a really challenging course and I started feeling the way about that class as I do about swimming.
"It challenged me beyond belief but I was able to put in hours and hours of work every night, and I loved it. Now I’m taking AP Physics. Everything I learn, I want to learn more, no matter how challenging it is, which I’ve never felt about other classes. And I’ve always felt like engineering was a good way to make a difference, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Medvedev is still considering her college options, which include finding a school with a strong biomedical engineering program as well as emailing swim coaches to find out what she would need to do in order to walk onto the school’s swim team.
Medvedev is determined to do everything in her power to swim in college. While academics take precedent, Medvedev firmly believes that swimming has helped make her a better student, and she can’t envision a future where the two don’t complement each other.
“I would really like to be on a college team, I don’t think club swimming would do it for me,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be as successful a student without swimming, so I’m trying to impose my will and swim no matter what. For me, schoolwork and swimming go hand in hand. I feel like if I don’t swim in the morning, my whole school day is thrown off. And I’m definitely much more focused on my schoolwork after a hard practice.
“The schools I applied to, I applied for the academics. I’ve been in touch with the swim coaches. A lot have emailed me back, telling me they’re looking for a certain time in the 100 breast. So I’m hoping to hit that by the end of this season, walk on in college, and work my way up.”
For now, however, she is staying focused on making her final months of Upper Dublin swimming as enjoyable and as successful as possible.
“This year feels special, not just because it’s my senior year, but I feel like the team is a lot closer,” she said. “There’s a lot of potential on the team, I feel like we’ve never been better than this year. We’re very confident in the abilities of everyone on the team, from the seniors down to some really fast freshmen.
“We know we can make a lot of history by winning leagues for the 30th year, and we’re using that as motivation, but we don’t just want to win, we want to put up good races and strong relays, establish how good we really are, and then move on to good showings at Districts and States.”
And once Medvedev hangs up her cap and goggles, there’s no doubt that the team will lose a tremendous presence. Fortunately, whether she knows it or not, Medvedev is helping the team prepare to fill the hole she will leave behind.
“Wherever Liz ends up, they get an incredibly dedicated kid who will do whatever is needed to be successful,” Redican said. “She’s a pretty serious kid, but she’s really learned how to laugh and have fun, too. She’s a great kid to have around.
“There’s no doubt that she’s going to leave a huge void for us after she graduates. The good part is I can already see the kids she’s influenced, the juniors and sophomores and even some of the freshmen that have been looking to her and are starting to recognize what it takes to be successful. We may lose her presence, but her reputation and her legacy, those are going to be passed down to the kids who are coming back.”
As to what Medvedev believes her legacy will be, she simply hopes people remember her passion for the sport and for her team, and can look at her as an example of the old saying that it doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it matters how many time you get back up.
“I hope I’m remembered as someone who was completely in love with the sport and everything that came with it,” she said. “And I hope people remember my journey. I feel like I definitely did not have ideal seasons for half of my high school career. I’ve had some successes but not always what I wanted. But I hope people can see that whatever happened, I bounced back and set new goals and tried to reach those goals. I made it through all four years and got so much out of it, the good times and the hard times, and I hope that will inspire them to keep working and never give up.”