In 2006, while Claire Crippen was a high school junior in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, her older brother Fran was a senior at Virginia becoming an 11-time All-American, eight-time ACC champion and two-time ACC Swimmer of the Year. Fran built a legacy that would not be easy for Claire, who would enroll at the University a year later, to follow.
Claire picked up where her brother left off, becoming a four-time All-American and three-time ACC champion in the 400m individual medley. She was also team captain to the 2010-2011 ACC Champion Cavaliers.
Near end of her sophomore season, Claire heard about Coach for College, a summer program in Vietnam that combined two of her greatest passions - education and sports - and would allow her to live her dream of traveling abroad. Knowing how hectic a swimmer's summer can be, she decided to pursue the program after graduation.
Then came the unimaginable. A year ago this Sunday, on October 23, 2010, Fran passed away while representing the United States in the open water FINA 10K World Cup.
News hit the swimming community hard, as FINA, USA Swimming, and the US Olympic Committee issued statements of sympathy, remembering Fran as "a champion swimmer, but more importantly, a tremendous person."
For Claire, among many other things, it meant hesitation about following her dream after graduation.
"I didn't know if I was going to be mentally ready to travel abroad," Claire said. "I didn't know if my parents were going to be okay with me going."
But with the support and accompaniment of a childhood friend who had participated in the program the year before, Claire prepared herself to go.
"It was an extremely rewarding experience that taught me more than I could have ever imagined. There is not a day that goes by in my life where I don't think about those little kids who taught me so much about life and myself."
"It definitely became even clearer after Fran passed away," Claire said about her life dream to share her gifts with the community. "I remember thinking to myself that I want to do this in my own personal life as well as a member of Fran's foundation."
Currently the Assistant Aquatic Director at her former high school, Germantown Academy, where she teaches and coaches swimming at all age groups, Claire is actively involved in the Fran Crippen Elevation Foundation, which serves as a central voice for athlete safety while empowering and protecting individuals as they elevate themselves in pursuit of their lifelong dreams. With Claire's help, the Foundation recently awarded grants to a male and female swimmer who embodies athletes in pursuit of Olympic dreams. Former Virginia swimmer Matt McLean and former Duke swimmer Ashley Twichell were the inaugural recipients.
"One of Fran's dreams was to ultimately be successful enough one day to pay it forward and support athletes who had the same values and goals he had," Claire said.
"Fran didn't get to accomplish his last goal, and now, it's our job."
To see the rest of the Buick Human Highlight Reel, go to www.NCAA.com/buick.