When Erika Remington was a freshman at the University of Denver, she took two breaths while swimming the 50-yard freestyle, the most high-intensity sprinting event in the sport. It’s a race that relies heavily on breath control to maintain proper hydrodynamics, and reaching the pinnacle means no breathing for roughly 25 seconds of heavy exertion.
Three years later, through focus and breathing techniques, Remington covers the entire distance without turning her head “most of the time.” Many of her younger sprinting teammates now mimic her breathing exercises, and that’s because Remington understands lung health better than most.
The high-level swimmer will graduate this summer with a dual major in biology and Spanish and hopes to become a doctor. In the same way that lung health was crucial to her athletic competition, it also played a big role in her education. Beyond her traditional studies in biology, Remington worked in the University’s Spit Lab during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently joined a study examining the effects of vaping on young adults.
When a kitchen in Nagel Hall was repurposed into a physiology lab to study the effects of vaping on young adults, she jumped at the chance to participate. She, along with three students and research director Nancy Lorenzon, have spent the spring quarter training and preparing for visitors to the lab.
“As a swimmer, lung health is super important,” Remington says. “Measuring lung volume, examining the health of lungs and looking at vaping is really interesting to me, and it ended up being a great fit.”
Remington’s journey to swimming and medicine started at a young age in Wisconsin, when her parents decided she had too much energy. The swimming pool became an outlet as early as seven years old, and she developed into one of the Badger State’s top sprinters. She was also tabbed as a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American alongside traditional All-American honors, making her a good fit for DU.
Once on campus, she started stacking up Summit League honors—both athletic and academic—as a sophomore. Across three seasons, her illustrious career saw her win 23 all-Summit League awards and three academic all-league team selections. During the 2023 CSCAA National Invitational Championships, she was part of several top 15 relays and placed eighth in the 50-yard freestyle. She hopes to one day compete in the Olympics.
Although Remington is athletically gifted, she’s always sought a balance with academics.
“Knowing that I thrive in smaller classrooms where I’m able to establish a relationship with the professor, DU seemed to fit both a [Division I] athletic program and small class sizes,” she says. “It felt natural. High school was pretty much the same training schedule—waking up at 5:30 and swimming before class. The big difference is that in college, I don’t have an entire day of classes, and that was nice. Then it’s back in the pool after class. The only learning curve was how classes are structured, but that was something I’ve enjoyed a lot.”
The academic exploration sparked an interest in medical school, but she also loved taking Spanish classes, something she had done since the first grade. At some universities, that level of interest in two seemingly divergent fields would not be possible, especially with DI athletics in the mix. At DU, it just took a strong work ethic and some creative scheduling.
Remington said she loves all her science classes, but the Spanish classes offered a break from the scientific rigor.
The wide range of interests extends into her future career plans, too.
“Right now, the problem is that I like all of it,” she says. “I also want to keep an open mind because if I get into medical school, I’ll learn things that I don’t know now, and that will help me find something that I want to do. As of right now, I really like surgery, mostly because I’ve shadowed more than a few surgeries, and what I’ve noticed is that there’s a very strong team atmosphere, and that’s something that’s very important to me.”
There’s also a need for bilingual medical professionals, something that isn’t lost on Remington. The ability to communicate in both English and Spanish can help raise the quality and understanding of care, she says.
She credits her education at DU and support from her professors for giving her the opportunity to develop her many interests.
“I know that traveling with athletics and training with athletics, I’ve missed several classes throughout each quarter,” she says. “I received so much support from a lot of my professors, whether that’s being flexible with office hours to cover material that I missed while I was gone or letting me work ahead where possible. I’ve just been so impressed with their dedication to students and helping them to succeed whatever their goals are. For me, that’s been both academic and athletic. It’s had a huge impact on my success in both areas, so I’m just thankful for my professors.”