Student-Athlete Spotlight: Shawn Warner and Julia Casolo

Cover Photo by Jacquie DellaNeve

Upon completion of their season, the two athletes reflect on what has been a great run and look forward to their futures. 

Niagara University’s pool sits perfectly on the edge of the campus catching the sun setting every day due to its location. This pool has seen records set, competitions completed and swimmers pushing themselves to their physical limit. For two swimmers, they known this pool well. Their season is over. For one, his career is over. For the other, the last leg of her swimming career is right around the corner.

Photo credit: Samantha Loper

Shawn Warner has made his name known at Niagara University. The graduating senior currently owns seven individual program records. He has dominated the individual medley owning all three records that could possibly be owned. Warner is arguably the most dominant long-distance freestyle swimmer in Niagara’s history with his other three records coming in the 500, 1000, and 1650 meter races. He also holds the record for the fastest 200m butterfly.

“It’s a really small swimming school compared to the other schools,” says Warner. “So to have something printed in Niagara’s history is pretty cool.”

Warner is also a part of four other relay records. Along with the 200 and 400m medley relay, he is also a part of the team that broke the 400 and 800m freestyle relay.

Julia Casolo is a junior, looking forward to her senior season.

“I don’t even remember how I found (NU),” Casolo says, laughingly. “Looking forward to senior year, there’s a lot of things that I wish I would’ve accomplished this season that I’ll have to work on next year.”

“We kind of did it for (Sydney)”

Without risk of resting on her accomplishments thus far, Casolo is a part of every record-breaking relay in the program’s history with the exception of the 800m freestyle. In terms of what it meant this year, Casolo spoke on her relationship with her teammates who double as some of her best friends.

“Those three girls always swim their heart out, so I knew we were gonna get those records,” says Casolo. “We kind of did it for (senior Sydney Kligys) because they were her last races.”

Senior Sydney Kligys also owns three individual program records (50 freestyle, 100 butterfly and the 100 individual medley). Photo credit: Samantha Loper

Casolo owns four other records with Kligys (200 and 400 medley relay and the 200 and 400 individual medley). Casolo’s teammate Annie Eckhardt is also a part of the 200 and 400 free relay, and the 400 individual medley record-setting performances.

“There’s less pressure for everyone in a relay,” says Casolo. “The atmosphere’s a lot different behind the blocks. You’re just laughing with friends instead of worrying about the race.”

Worry they did not, and records they did set.

In terms of the program’s future, Warner spoke going about his point-of-view coming into the program and it’s progression since.

“My senior year of high school, (NU) got dead last in MAACs,” says Warner. “We were a strong freshman class and then going forward each year it seems like we kept getting more points.”

In this year’s MAAC Championships held in Buffalo, NY, Niagara’s men’s team finished sixth, while the women took home fifth place honors. Casolo spoke about the progression of the women’s team the last several years and what she’s been able to see happen.

“It seems like each season we bring in a stronger and stronger freshman class,” says Casolo. “The class we just got this past season has been incredible.”

Casolo also went on to say that the women’s team had jumped up three spots from eighth place to fifth place in three seasons. The 200 free relay at MAACs was also the first to medal under Niagara’s current coach, Ben Nigro.

Senior diver Jaron Williams (left), regarded by several swimmers to be the overall most valuable member on the team, turned in a fourth place finish in MAACs. Photo credit: Samantha Loper

Niagara’s academic experience was something that the two swimmers spoke on, both remarking that the small campus and person connections with people extend further than that of the classroom.

“You’re always together with someone you know or someone you’re friends with,” says Warner. “Someone who’s gonna help you, push you to be better or smarter, it’s here.”

“It’s a small school, everybody wants to see you succeed and do well,” Casolo also went on to say. “Everyone has been really helpful and they want to see you succeed.”

“Someone who’s gonna help you, push you to be better or smarter, it’s here.”

Looking forward, both athletes have completely different journeys in front of them. One, a journey filled with familiarity and greatness in which Casolo will strive to reach lengths she was not able to reach this year. Warner, a senior with a biology degree, will continue his life outside of Niagara. But both, with purple running through their blood and their names etched in Niagara’s history forever, have become a permanent part of that pool that sits perfectly on the edge of campus.

Shawn Warner and Julia Casolo. Photo credit: Jacquie DellaNeve



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