The environment around the University of Minnesota, from the fall foliage to the Mississippi River, reminds freshman Mackenzie Padington of home.
Padington is from Campbell River, British Columbia, a Canadian city about four hours northwest of Vancouver. She said life in the U.S. isn't that different from in Canada.
"Politics are a little different here, so I don't talk about them," Padington said. "Minnesota's a really nice community. We all care for each other."
Padington earned Big Ten Swimmer of the Week on Oct. 11 after finishing first in the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle in Minnesota's victory over Florida State on Oct. 7.
Head coach Kelly Kremer first saw Padington swim about four years ago. Kremer said another coach told him to keep an eye on her.
"I really liked what I saw. I have followed her ever since," Kremer said. "She's blue collar, not afraid of work. She's an intense athlete in the water, but she's never afraid to share a smile on deck."
Padington said she loves the competitive aspect of swimming. It's one of the reasons why her team hopes she will improve as her career progresses.
"Sometimes, it's an easy way to forget about the rest of the world and put your head down in the water," Padington said.
Junior Erin Buck, a captain of the women's team, said Padington works extremely hard at practice and inspires the team to improve, which Buck appreciates. Buck said Padington could become a team captain in the future.
"[Padington's work ethic] pushes everyone else around her to be better. She's definitely not afraid to make new friends and talk to everyone," Buck said. "As a freshman right now, she's an incredible leader. I think everyone on the team can be a great leader by working hard in the pool showing that they're dedicated to this team."
Padington is majoring in elementary education and said Minnesota's elementary education program is one of the reasons why she chose swim at Minnesota.
When she isn't swimming or studying, Padington likes to bake and enjoys taking photos of anything she can photograph. As a child, Padington's sister forced her to watch Vancouver Canucks games.
"My sister would drag me in to watch the game every night," Padington said. "I haven't had time to watch the games since I've been here [at Minnesota]."
Padington hopes to contribute to the team during the Big Ten Championships in February. The women's Big Ten Championships will be held in Columbus, Ohio.
"We have a really good shot at Big Tens this year," Padington said. "My top goal is to give everything I can at Big Tens and carry that forward to [the NCAA championships] and Canadian [Olympic] trials."
Kremer thinks Padington can get much out of her time at Minnesota. He said he wants her to maximize her potential as a swimmer.
"She's so new to this level of swimming. I think that her improvement curve will keep going in a very steep direction," Kremer said. "We have some time goals. Hopefully, that will lead to some All-American swims, All-Big Ten swims and things like that."