Age really is just a number to Amanda Wetzler.
Not only is she a swimmer for the Millersville University Marauders, but she also holds titles of mother, wife, coach, actor and student-athlete.
Wetzler is a 31-year-old mother with a 3-year-old son, Kellen, and a husband, Alejandro.
Wetzler first dove into the pool as a Millersville student-athlete 11 years ago. Now, she's classified as a non-traditional student, but bucking tradition is what makes her story special, and it's what makes Wetzler such an asset to Millersville swimming.
Her journey includes leaving Lancaster County for the bright lights of Hollywood, living the life of the starving actress, getting married, having a son and returning to Millersville, first as a coach and then as a student-athlete, again.
Departing for West Coast: Wetzler, who is an Elizabethtown High School graduate, has always lived her life with by making and achieving goals. That's why, as a third-generation Millersville student, after one season with the swim team, Wetzler departed for the West Coast.
She loved acting. She had performed in small plays and local commercials, and had some print modeling jobs. She was bitten by the acting bug and she was afforded the opportunity to attend acting school. She believed that the best place to pursue her dream was Los Angeles.
After two years of arts school, Wetzler spent the next four years auditioning with varying success. She landed bit parts on TV shows such as "CSI: Criminal Minds" and movies such as Adam Sandler's "Don't Mess with the Zohan." The work, however, wasn't consistent, and Wetzler found the LA. scene in stark contrast with the morals and beliefs she acquired growing up in Lancaster County.
"I had mild success as far as acting and directing," Wetzler said. "I got small jobs and some were good paying and some were not. It is not an even career. Sometimes you will have a job that will last you for two years in which you will get paid for two years and have nothing in between. It is a job with a lot of highs and lows and stresses and a lot of financial worries.
"It did not align with my morals. It has to do a lot with what you look like instead of what your abilities are. I did not feel that I was in love with the business of it and how people were treated, but I was in love with the craft, the acting craft. I did not want to pass that onto my son."
Swimming her first lose: Even while attending arts school and acting, Wetzler never forgot her first love, which was swimming. In L.A., Wetzler continued to swim in the U.S. Masters Program and did so even while pregnant with Kellen.
"When I was expecting my son, I knew I wanted to continue swimming and I swam the entire time that I was expecting," Wetzler said. "I swam the mile at a meet when I was six months pregnant and I could barely breathe or move. I wanted to inspire (Kellen) to be whatever he wanted to be, no matter if he wants to change his career or do whatever. I knew I wanted to give him the best opportunities and excel no matter what situation he is facing."
Being active in U.S. Masters Swimming sparked a new dream within Wetzler. She saw the drive for improvement in her teammates and was inspired.
"I learned that coaching swimming and strength (training were) something that inspired a passion within me," Wetzler said. "I contacted Kyle (Almoney) to see if he needed any help with his team. He found a spot for me on his staff."
Returning to Lancaster County: Wetzler packed her bags, uprooted her family and returned to her home in Lancaster County. Not as a student-athlete at first, but as the Marauders' volunteer assistant coach, where she mentored the swimmers she now calls teammates.
"I really enjoyed coming back," Wetzler said. "I was really nervous about coaching here and being back at the school that I once attended. But it was comfortable. The environment is motivating and the sports atmosphere has changed so much in the last 10 years. I came back and every sports team was really trying hard to get to amazing levels. That culture change really shocked me, and I would really want to be a part of this. It excited me and motivated me."
Former Northeastern standout helps in Wetzler's return: Almoney, a former standout swimmer at Northeastern High School in York County, was glad to have her back with the Marauders.
"As an assistant coach, Amanda was always very passionate and worked well with athletes," Almoney said. "She listened and also challenged them to work to their fullest potential as well and was always so very driven. She was a great source of information too.
"As a coach, she was strong, motivating, and respectful," Millersville swimmer Emily Fusco said. "She saw the best in all of her athletes and helped each swimmer become closer to achieving their goals every day. She coached with such grace and discipline, with emotional intelligence and focus on specific training details."
Wetzler and Almoney already had a bond from her competing for the 5-0 2006-07 team. Wetzler and Almoney picked up where they left off. Wetzler appreciated Almoney's ability and willingness to listen to his athletes while challenging Wetzler to improve in her coaching abilities and knowledge.
Setting new goal: Coaching in Pucillo Natatorium for one season helped Wetzler set a new goal. She wanted to be a swimming coach. The career change, however, necessitated a need for a degree, and that meant going back to the classroom at Millersville for the first time in a decade. Standing poolside stirred up unfulfilled goals as a swimmer for Wetzler. If she was going back to class, why not jump back in the pool?
Being a 31-year-old mother, wife and full-time college student is hard enough. Wetzler, however, has proven throughout her life that when she sets a goal, she works toward it, regardless of how choppy the waters might be.
"It is intimidating," Wetzler said. "It is hard that no one else has kids. They are also engaged in social events and stuff in which I feel a little left out on, but it motivates me. My son motivates me to do better. I want to set an example for him. If ever he wanted to change his career at any time, I would want to be supportive of that. I want him to know that he has any option in life. He can the best electrician in the world, or an athlete or a musician. He has options at any time of his life."
Making splash in pool: Wetzler has successfully returned to life as a student-athlete. She is among the team's top swimmers in the sprint events, and holds the 29th-best time in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in the 100-yard backstroke. She has already qualified for the PSAC Championships in that event. It's expected that as the season progresses, she will also qualify in the sprint freestyle events.
"Amanda had a successful acting career, and has a beautiful, bright, 3-year-old son," Fusco said. "She manages to raise her child, take classes at Millersville, have a career, and bring positivity and motivation to practice every single day. Since Amanda has become my teammate, I've been able to witness her incredible drive and love for the sport. I've never met another individual who is able to take on any situation with complete confidence."
Role model: Wetzler's confidence and goal-driven attitude is evident to the Millersville swimmers, and because of that, Wetzler is regarded, in some ways, as just another teammate. In other ways, she also serves as a role model and as a coach behind the scenes for her younger teammates.
"It is a different dynamic than what it used to be," Wetzler said. "I enjoy it because I can help the girls with problems that I have already gone through. It is a good dynamic between me and them. I really enjoy the (competition) that they give, and I can return that as well as be a motherly figure sometimes. I like it, and it is good supporting role."
Serving as inspiration: Wetzler lived through the stress of waiting for call backs, looking for work and hoping the next audition is the one that would spark her acting career. She moved across the country twice. She started a new career path at 31. She is working toward a degree. She is raising a family. Her experiences made her stronger, and as a coach and as a teammate, she takes those life lessons and serves as an inspiration to her teammates who want to pursue their own dreams.
"Amanda is setting such an amazing example of hard work, love, and humility," Fusco said. "She is a constant reminder to us all of who we strive to be in the future. Amanda is a living example of how being a student-athlete at Millersville prepares you for success after graduation. She is the goal that I strive to become when I one day become a mother with a career. She's impacted this team in so many ways, from when she was a member 10 years ago, to being an assistant coach, to completing her eligibility this season."
Non-traditional? Wetzler and the Marauders like it that way.
Ryan Small is an athletic communication graduate assistant at Millersville University.