Dream Chasing: Ruby Martin and the Quest for Olympic Glory

A Junior in high school, Ruby Martin has gone to great lengths in the swimming pool to chase her Olympic dreams.

Video by Josh Newkirk

Ruby Martin is a rising star in the local swimming circles of her hometown in Iowa City, Iowa. Her older brother Oliver Martin is also known in football and baseball circles as a natural athlete, someone who is being recruited by the big name schools.

Simply put; pure athleticism courses through the Martin veins.

As Oliver is looking to put his stamp on the football world, Ruby is dreaming about doing the same with swimming. Judging by her lengthy list of accomplishments, the 16-year-old is well on her way.

Competing in the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in June, Martin finished in fourth place in the finals of the 200-meter butterfly, a mere three seconds behind the first place finisher. Only a Junior in high school, that feat is enormous and only shows the potential she is just beginning to scratch in the swimming pool.

The fourth place medal hangs proudly in her bedroom, a constant reminder that encapsulates the enormity of it all.

"I have my medal that I got for fourth place in my room," Martin said. "Sometimes when I'm sitting in my bed and when I'm laying in my bed, I look up at it. I didn't actually notice how big it was in the moment. The interview after I kind of teared up a little bit but now that I look back at it, it's just like 'wow.' I can't even imagine that now, going back there I would be so nervous. Like, how did I go through all of this? It was amazing. Still, it was kind of like, I don't know how I did that. It was awesome, it was an awesome experience."

For Martin, the bar has been officially been set going forward. A fourth place finish in an Olympic Trial event is nothing to scoff at, but there are higher heights and greater goals to reach. She says the focus right now is making more teams with Team USA.

Lofty goals to some, but not for Martin, as she is ready to dive right into the challenge.

"Right now, since I made the national junior team, it's kind of an accomplishment for me," Martin said. "Pan Pacifics, I went to that in August, that was kind of at the back of my mind at the meet because I didn't want to think too much about it, I tend to overthink things. That was really nice knowing that I made it and I get to have this really fun experience with Team USA. My main goal right now is kind of making more teams for USA. Being in that environment is one of a kind, it's awesome. Meeting new people and your competitors, going to big meets and seeing them all. I'm going to be going to some arena pro series and junior nationals at Texas A&M."

The opportunity of a lifetime?

Martin is by no means flying under the radar when it comes to her success in swimming. In fact, she has a handful of scholarship offers already.

University of Florida, University of Michigan, and the hometown Iowa Hawkeyes have all extended offers her way.

Perhaps no other offers will compare to the one she received from the Wolverines, however. The offer itself came from a secondhand source, someone unrelated to the swimming program.  It came while she was on a visit to Ann Arbor with her brother, who is also being courted by the Wolverines. During Michigan's annual Barbecue at the Big House recruiting event last August she received the good news.

The source? None other than head football coach Jim Harbaugh.

"All of the football recruits were in the head coach's office," Martin said. "We were just kind of talking and all of the sudden there was a phone call and [Harbaugh] put it on speakerphone. They offered me right then and there. When the phone call went off, he was just like 'BOOM! Ruby got offered! Ruby and Oliver at the same school!' It was amazing. Coach Bottom is a great coach and my parents have told me it's a great program. I am definitely looking forward to looking into the program."

Both Oliver and Ruby now face a situation not many families are fortunate enough to have in life... siblings who can both go to the same school on athletic scholarship.

While Ruby admits that the two haven't had in-depth discussions about the possibility, she sees the major benefits having her sibling close to her.

"We haven't done it much but it would definitely be a perk if we went to the same school," Martin said. "Our parents wouldn't have to go to two different schools to see sporting events and what not. Obviously having my brother there for support and me being there for him, I wouldn't miss home as much having him there. With our schedules, we are both different in high school, we don't see each other much. We're still really close and very similar."

Martin says she is looking forward to checking out the facilities U-M has to offer and wants to see more of campus.

Looking ahead

Martin has time on her side when it comes to making a college decision. It might not even be on her radar as of right now. In Addition to furthering her swimming career she says she would also like to pursue either physical therapy or nursing for a degree.

Looking ahead, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are looming. Some might look at three years time as too far down the line. Not Martin. As someone who is looking to build off her recent success, 2020 isn't too far away. Knowing what she is capable of and what she has done, and add the fact that her body is still getting stronger, the sky is the limit.

And maybe, just maybe, you will hear the overhead announcement as she steps to the starting block.

"Ruby Martin, United States of America."

"Thinking about it, it's not that far away.  From now it's like three-and-a-half years," Martin said. "It's not that far. It's kind of a little nerve-wracking. When you go to trial, obviously, trial is going to be nerve-wracking but knowing after this past trial, it's giving me a lot of confidence knowing what I can do when I swim the 200 fly. In that final, I took it out a little faster than I normally do, which is kind of a risk. It worked out really well and it was a confidence booster in what I can actually do. I'm excited to see what I can do this season in that event."

Be sure to check out The Michigan Insider's exclusive with Martin's brother for much more on his burgeoning relationship with Michigan.

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