Wheeling, W.Va. – When Anna Davis, a graduate of Wheeling University’s swimming department, pondered where to take her next steps, she knew she wanted a small college where she could get involved. Finding Wheeling University gave her the best of both worlds, allowing her to pursue the sport she loved while also finding ways to get involved in various clubs and organizations on campus.
“Wheeling really gave me an opportunity to get involved in the way I wanted to,” Davis said. “I’ve worked in a few different places and also been part of student administration. Wheeling has given me a thorough education and I have been given the tools to handle whatever responsibilities are on my plate.”
Growing up, Davis was the youngest of three, and all three were involved in sports. Initially, she and her brother took up soccer while Davis’ sister was looking for her sport. When her sister discovered swimming, Anna jumped right into it when she was about six. She competed alongside her sister in sports for seven years until she was 13 years old. However, when she got into middle school, she decided to take a break from competitive swimming and focus on soccer.
She says the break was a chance for her to recover from the yearly drudgery of competitive swimming and helped her avoid burnout from the sport.
“When you start swimming that young, most of the time it’s very strenuous and you train all year round and by the end of it you’re burned out by the time you’re in high school,” Davis said. “So[the break]gave me a couple of years to reorient, refocus and be ready for the next six years of swimming.”
Taking a break from competitive swimming allowed Anna to split her time between soccer and swimming during her freshman years of high school at George Washington High School in Charleston, WV. While soccer was her focus during those early years, she still competed for the GWHS swim team. After her sophomore year, she finally made the difficult decision to focus solely on competitive swimming as she pursued her path to college.
“Swimming in high school was fun, but initially it was an extra thing because I played more soccer the first two years,” Davis said. “When I turned 16 I realized football was fun, but I think swimming is the step forward. I could see myself swimming in college, so I went back to competitive swimming and went to Wheeling for it.”
Davis first started swimming during her junior season of high school and worked to improve her times. She says she was a late bloomer, with her fastest times being achieved in her senior year, which usually occurs after the recruitment process that usually occurs during the swimmers’ junior season.
A native of West Virginia, Davis said she always had Wheeling in the back of her mind as a great education and atmosphere. When she was looking for opportunities to swim at the collegiate level, her club coach, Greg Olsen, put her in touch with Wheeling Head’s swim coach, Mike Meyers, who then brought her onto campus.
According to Davis, it was a cold and dreary day, but she fell in love with the campus and the small school atmosphere it offered.
“It was a cold March day (when I visited campus),” Davis said. “It was windy, it was grey, but it felt like home. It seemed really cozy in the B room and by that point I had already decided I wanted to swim in college so it felt good.”
Admittedly, once she came onto campus, the transition was difficult for Davis. After swimming just once a day, five days a week in high school, Davis wasn’t quite ready to make the transition to being a full-time sophomore-athlete. From the two days leading up to training, Davis learned how to be a collegiate athlete with the help of a few high school seniors she already knew on the team. She eventually became one of the team’s top sprint swimmers and helped the team win an Appalachian Swimming Conference (ASC) championship during her freshman season.
“Two-A-Days and lifting weights have been the biggest adjustments for me,” Davis said. “I wasn’t the most dedicated swimmer in high school, so going from five times a week to eight times a week was a big change for me. Having people at Wheeling that I already knew definitely gave me some peace of mind, although I may not know it as the majority of people on campus, I could always have a few friends as resources to look out for and encourage me.
In her sophomore year, Davis wrote her name in the Wheeling history books at the short track events. On February 13, 2015, she and teammates Danielle Pekular, Jade Worrels and Kelsey Zimcosky broke the school record for 200 yards in the free relay at the 2015 ASC Championships with a time of 1:38.59.
Later in the competition, Davis went solo in the 50-yard freestyle, breaking a 13-year-old record set by Wheeling graduate Jennifer Grabsky (’02) with a time of 23.91 seconds. At the end of her career, she held two individual records in the wheeling swim and one relay swim record, all three of which remain to this day.
She was also part of two ASC championship teams, as well as two teams that placed second at the event. For Davis, it was the culmination of the goal she set during her freshman season to keep going faster, and she’s proud to be making her mark on the program.
“It gives me confidence (looking back),” Davis said. “During my freshman year I set a goal to be faster throughout my career and to see the proof of that on the wall is huge. It gives me confirmation that my hard work has paid off. All the sacrifices, all the pain was worth it. It showed me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to.”
Davis would graduate from Wheeling in 2017 with a degree in Business, Marketing and Management with a minor in Spanish, but her work had already begun. She was very involved during her time at Wheeling, working as a tutor at the ARC and as an intern in Human Resources for Melissa Rose.
However, as she entered her senior year, her focus shifted to her career and life after college. She had earned a marketing concentration over the past year and it was a meeting with Wheeling’s head of marketing that set the direction for her career path.
He gave her the tools she needed to contact a digital marketing agency in Wheeling and she began her career during her final semester.
“When I met with Marketing Director Roe Goddard, he gave me two pieces of advice, a look at online marketing and two he gave me a directory of all Wheeling companies,” Davis said. “So I went through this directory from shop to shop to see who had internships in that field. I ended up with a local Wheeling digital marketing agency, Direct Online Marketing, and their website listed a digital marketing internship. I applied for it. I got the position during my final semester at Wheeling. I had a paid internship with them from March to May and then they took me on full-time. It gave me a lot of great experience in digital marketing.”
Today, Davis continues to work in marketing as a digital marketing specialist at 4moms, a company that sells baby gear, overseeing the company’s digital marketing strategies. Wheeling has helped her find her path in life, and she urges the next generation of Cardinals to get involved and take risks, no matter how scary those risks may sound.
“The small school environment might sound scary, but honestly, you get a chance to really get to know everyone around you,” Davis said. “It allows you to show yourself and be a part of more in your community.”