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Rhiana Saunders: A Model Student-Athlete

Dec. 10, 1999

By Alan Wasielewski

There are a special group of student-athletes at Notre Dame that seem to have an ability to get the most out of their college experience. They excel in and out of the classroom and by the end of their four years at Notre Dame have a personal resume full of memories and accomplishments.

Rhiana Saunders is one of those student-athletes. A senior on the Notre Dame diving team, Saunders seems to have accomplished everything possible during her stay at Notre Dame. She is a member of the Army ROTC program and is active in volunteer work as well as competing in diving.

The Woodlands, Texas, native is one of the best divers on the Irish roster, finishing in the top five in five out of the seven meets she has participated in this season. Saunders’ excellence, however, just begins in the pool. Earlier this year, she was named the winner of the Notre Dame Distinguished Student award.

“I don’t try to look at all my accomplishments at once,” Saunders said of her academic and athletic awards. “I try to spread myself into different areas like ROTC, diving and school work. I take more pride in being able to help my teammates and friends. There have been some diving meets when some of my friend’s parents have come up to me and said, ‘You have been such a big help to (my daughter). She talks about you all the time.’ That is something your friends won’t tell you, but it is a good feeling to know that people respect and look up to me.”

While Saunders tries to deflect most of the acclaim she has received for her work, the awards keep piling up. She was recognized for by The Sporting News and the Army ROTC as a top college performer. In the summer, along with her ROTC boot camp training, she was selected for a research internship through the Notre Dame Environmental Research Center.

Saunders took the Fall of 1998 off from diving to spend a semester in the Notre Dame London study abroad program, which gave her a chance to pursue one of her favorite past-times, traveling.

“I love to travel,” Saunders said. “Since my parents were in the military, I traveled all over Europe but I had never been to London. When I found out about the program I was really excited. The best part about the time over there is that they give the students two, one-week breaks that allow you to go anywhere you want in Europe. I went to Germany, Greece, Ireland and France. I never made any concrete plans, I just packed up and went. It was a great time.”

Without access to a pool during her time in London, Saunders missed the chance to practice her diving.

“I tried to dive while I was over there,” Saunders said. “I went to a place called Crystal Palace in London to get some practice. It was really far away from the London Campus, and I had to take a train to get there. It ended up being impossible to get enough practice.”

Saunders was surprised by the reaction she got when working out in a park close to the London Campus.

“We lived right by Hyde Park, which is a huge park in London, and I went running everyday to keep in shape,” Saunders explained. “It was funny because it seems like everyone in London hasn’t seen or heard of exercising before. I went running in the park and everyone looks at you like ‘What is she doing?'”

Back into the regular routine this fall, Saunders is determined to improve her diving throughout the season.

“It has been tough since I got back from London,” she said. “Last semester was tough while preparing for MCATs and doing schoolwork. Then this summer I had boot camp for ROTC. I wasn’t able to get enough diving practice. This fall, I have been able to get my feet wet again, and I think I have improved a lot in the last couple months. This is my senior year, I want it to end well and have fun.”