Megan Jendrick: A story of perseverance and discipline

The two-time Olympic swimmer from South Hill speaks on her past life as a gold medal winner.


Photo by Bryan Turner on Unsplash

Olympic Rings at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s the 2000 Olympics. The sounds of the spectators murmuring, smell of chlorine in her nose, the world watching, her country on her back, all at only 16 years old.

Megan Jendrick – then Megan Quann – South Hill native and student at Emerald Ridge High School was the second-youngest American athlete at the Olympics and would become the youngest medalist at the games by winning gold medals in the 100-meter breaststroke and 4×100-meter relay.

She was on top, everyone thinking she was destined for stardom. That good at just 16? “She’ll be even better when she’s 20!” is what people thought.

But four years later when it came to representing her country again, she couldn’t: In 2004, Jendrick failed to qualify for the Olympics in Athens by a measly eleven hundredths of a second. After that, she gave up. She was burnt out. She retired from swimming at 20 years old.

“I started coaching little kids and saw how much love they had for the water and the sport, for no reason other than they enjoyed it so much, and I decided I had more to do,” Jendrick said.

And more she did.

Jendrick started grinding and working hard again like the years before. The very next year after she retired, she swam at the World University Games in Izmir Turkey and won three gold medals.

With 2008 quickly approaching, the thought of showing out for her country again looms over her. The Summer Olympics are in Beijing, and Jendrick prepares to race to represent her country again. Before qualifiers, her husband, Nathan Jendrick, gave her some advice.

“Nate told me to tuck my goggle straps in under my cap. Usually, I wore them outside of my cap. But Nate said, ‘You’ll never know when a hundredth will make the difference,’ and he was quickly proven right,” said Jendrick.

Jendrick got second place and qualified, just beating the third-place swimmer Tara Kirk by that hundredth of a second.

“I was so excited! It was an incredible feeling to know I was back on Team USA and would be representing our country,” Jendrick said.

Jendrick has had many critics during her career.

“Going into the 2008 trials I remember one reporter wrote that it would take a miracle for me to make the team again. So, thinking that was amusing, Nate contacted Jack O’Callahan from the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ Hockey team, and got him to sign a puck for me. Jack wrote, ‘Megan, believe in miracles!’ And then I made the team,” Jendrick said.

Those critics were quickly silenced when Jendrick took fifth overall in the 100 meter breast stroke and a silver medal in the 4×100 Medley Relay, in Beijing.

That moment of seeing her name on the on the scoreboard, being displayed to the world, filled her with great pride.

“It made everything worth it a hundred times over. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work not just for me, but for my whole team. I knew from the very beginning that success is never an individual effort. I owed a lot to my family and friends who always supported me, my husband who was also one of my coaches, my teammates, fans from around the world who sent me positive letters and e-mails, everyone. With that silver medal I felt like I was justifying their support and making them proud,” said Jendrick.

Jendrick officially retired from international swimming on September 24, 2013. She is the owner and operator of ACQUA, LLC, founded in 2004, which is a company that specializes in full-service swimming events, camps, and clinics. Jendrick currently works for the City of Fife as the Assistant City Manager and PRA Director. She lives happily with her husband and two kids in Bonney Lake.