Athlete of the Issue: Gemma Undercofler ‘24


Photography by Lighthouse Wu '24

Swimmer Gemma Young ’24 in the Baldwin pool.

Everybody has that one random activity we learned as a kid. Maybe your mom put you in a kiddie class to make friends, or you were testing the waters to see what hobby you wanted to pursue. Or maybe you happened to tag along to an older sibling’s activities– as was the case for Duke-bound swimmer Gemma Undercofler ‘24.

Swimming has always been a part of Undercofler’s life: her earliest memories include dipping her toes in the pool at the Mommy and Me classes she attended at the age of two. The following year, her brother, Jack, was put in swim classes, and learned to swim in the lane next to him. 

At six, after countless lessons alongside Jack, Undercofler joined the Upper Main Line YMCA team before switching over to her current club: the Newtown Square-based Suburban Seahawks. 

Undercofler has an intense practice schedule. Aside from Baldwin’s practice, she trains six days a week for most of the year, meaning the off-season is just as hectic as the winter season. Whether it’s swimming or fitness, her training always adds up to at least fourteen hours each week. 

Undercofler is as passionate about her sport as she is devoted to it. When asked what about swimming appeals the most to her, she responded, “Everything. It defines me. I can’t imagine not being a swimmer.” 

One of Undercofler’s most meaningful memories from swimming was her first national meet at the National Club Swimming Association the summer after her freshman year.

Undercofler said this experience “was terrifying, as I wasn’t used to swim meets this big. When I finished and came back to my team, they told me that I looked absolutely terrified.” 

Despite her nerves, Undercofler secured a spot in the top eight for the entire meet, a feat she’s proud of because she was still “able to have a good swim” regardless of her initial fears. But Undercofler has taken away much more than medals from her years swimming for both her club and Baldwin.

She said, “It’s just such a great group of people. There are a lot of good swimmers who are close in time and you’re competing against each other a lot of the time. But, even in competition, it doesn’t really feel like that. You both mutually push each other to be better and still remain friends.” 

Undercofler highlighted Baldwin Swim’s friendly atmosphere, saying, “Generally speaking, there’s a lot of fast teams that Baldwin swims against and there are many times where we know it’s not going to be close at all. But everyone still cheers and brings a lot of positive energy. Even if we’re not winning or are at a disadvantage, our team is able to find things to celebrate.”

Excited to be a part of Duke’s Division I team, Undercofler explained, “In college, specific training groups are created, so having the opportunity to train for certain strokes or events is really exciting for me. They seem like they know how to work hard but also have fun. For example, we’re able to go to Aruba for our annual training trip, which is definitely a plus!” 

A teammate Betti Pang ‘23 remarked that “she’s super speedy. It looks like she’s not swimming that fast but then you see where everyone else is and she’s an entire lap ahead!” The results of Undercofler’s tireless training have clearly not gone unnoticed by her fellow Baldwin teammates, and her enthusiasm for the sport will take her far.