It was a Friday night. She was at the mall with friends, and Hurricane Katrina was stirring in the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, her school, the University of New Orleans, implemented a mandatory evacuation.This was how junior psychology major Courtney Hamilton began her college experience.
After the evacuation announcement, Hamilton sought shelter with friends on her swim team in Baton Rouge, La., then continued home to Southlake.
The next week, they were told classes were canceled for the rest of the semester.
“The city was flooded 15 feet in some points,” Hamilton said, “and where my school was, it flooded the most.”
The team ended up attending classes at a small liberal arts private college while training at Georgia Tech, Hamilton said.
“It was good because our team bonded,” she said. “We didn’t know anyone in Atlanta. We had to depend on each other, and it got us through the hard times when we didn’t know if we’d have a team or if we’d get to go back to school.”
After her sophomore year, Hamilton decided to leave the university to maintain her swimming career, Hamilton said.
She transferred to TCU this fall, but she did not make the move alone.
Keegan Walkley, assistant coach for the TCU swim team, previously coached Hamilton at the University of New Orleans.
“It was nice to have a comfort – someone I knew really well,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton, who swims the 200 backstroke, said that she is enjoying her transition into the TCU lifestyle. Head swimming coach Richard Sybesma said Hamilton has demonstrated that she enjoys being a part of the team.
The biggest changes from her previous team are a consistency in pool availability and financial support.
“Here, I feel like royalty,” Hamilton said. “I never had a team doctor or a personal trainer.”
In retrospect, Hamilton said she would never trade the memories she has of her freshman year in New Orleans.
“It was an experience I’m glad I went through,” Hamilton said. “It made me realize how tough I was. I didn’t even know I could handle that type of situation.