Diving into packed schedule: Division I athlete balances sports, academics


Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Swimmer Abby Cabush. senior in Engineering, has broken several records during her swim career. She has broken the University record for freestyle and some personal ones too.

By Shreya Rathi, Staff Writer

The course load for a major like bioengineering seems daunting, but over the past four years, Abby Cabush, senior in Engineering, has managed to balance that as well as being a Division I swimmer.

During her time on the women’s swim & dive team, Cabush has broken the University’s 200-freestyle record, beat her own record in the 200 twice and broke several other personal records. She has also contributed to many of the team’s first-place wins throughout her career.

In addition to her athletics, Cabush has managed to keep up with a rigorous academic schedule. She’s accomplished this feat well enough to be named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.

Cabush also has an internship with Abbott Laboratories where she is working to communicate information about medical tool sterilization to other medical research facilities.

With both athletics and academics, Cabush said that a typical day for her is jam-packed with classes sandwiched between athletic commitments. She said the secret to her success is impeccable time management skills.

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“I have practice in the morning from 6 to 8 a.m.,”  Cabush said. “And then I have two back-to-back classes that run from 8:30 to 11. Right now, I’m eating lunch with all the athletes. At two, I’ll go back to the athletic facilities and do an hour of weights. After that, I have another class, and I’m done with scheduled stuff at around five. The evenings are for recovery and eating and homework.10:30 is normally when I try to go to bed to wake up for morning practice.”

Cabush said she finds her motivations in the University’s people and culture.

“I think that one of the things that really helped is that on the swim team there were a bunch of upperclassmen — a nuclear engineer that was above me, a civil engineer, and all these girls doing research,” Cabush said. “I never felt like I was the most overworked personally, I always felt like, oh, ‘There’s someone above me doing way more than me. If they can do it, I can do it,’ The culture at Illinois is that people are always involved in a lot of things.” 

Cabush said that she’s had her fair share of low points as well — one of which occurred over the summer.

At this point, I was taking summer classes,” Cabush said. “And I was also trying to hold a part-time job and be involved with research. I also had more of an unstructured swimming schedule. “

Cabush explained that all of her stress has sometimes made her feel like she took on too much.

Everything had piled up and piled up,” Cabush said. “I feel like it really hit, like, ‘Wow, this is hard. I don’t have enough time for this. I felt like there’s so much expectation on me.”

However, her perseverance pays off, and she made swimming an invaluable addition to her college experience.

“It’s been fun to have goals and chase after them. I don’t think I’d be at Illinois if it wasn’t for swimming,” Cabush said.

— Abby Cabush

Cabush also said she felt like she wouldn’t have met a lot of her mentors and best friends, nor would she have learned a lot about herself and grew in leadership if it wasn’t for swimming.

“I also have been able to do a lot of reflection,” Cabush said. “ There’s a lot of time when you’re easy swimming in the water to warm up. It’s a time to get to know yourself and be alone with your thoughts because you’re just staring at the bottom of the pool, swimming back and forth.”

As she is about to graduate, Cabush plans on joining a research company that creates blood pressure monitoring sensors. Regarding swimming, she is unsure of whether or not she will continue the sport recreationally or join a post-graduate team.

Whatever she decides to do, Cabush said that being a swimmer has taught her a lot about herself and built the person she is today.

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