A Watterson has been in the water for Penn State Behrend in each of the past 10 swim seasons. "Swimming definitely helped us build a bond," says Liam, the youngest.
For 10 years, Penn State Behrend swimming and diving coach Jennifer Wallace has had a Watterson on her roster.
Terrance (“T.C.”), a 2012 graduate, was the first. A year later, his sister, Anna, arrived. Last fall, Wallace welcomed one more Watterson sibling – Liam, a mechanical engineering major – to the Junker Center pool.
The Pittsburgh siblings didn’t plan to attend the same college, but each said Behrend felt like home, complete with a “swim mom and dad” in Wallace and her assistant coach, Joe Tristan.
“While T.C. was in college, our mother suffered a massive stroke,” said Anna Watterson, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in communication. “Coach Wallace really cared about our family. After seeing the love and support she offered, I couldn’t imagine going to any other college. Coaches like Jen and Joe impact your life, not just your swim strokes.”
Alexis Watterson recovered and is healthy today. She attended Anna’s graduation in December, as did her husband, David, and sons. Wallace was there, too.
“I was happy but surprised that Anna chose Behrend,” said T.C. Watterson, who now works at FirstEnergy as a nuclear design engineer. “I figured she would go somewhere far away and much warmer. As for Liam, he looked at a ton of schools, and was accepted at most of them, but as soon as he got home from Behrend, it was obvious he’d fallen in love with the swim team and the School of Engineering.”
Born to swim
With four years between each of them, T.C., 26, Anna, 22, and Liam, 18, were never in the Junker Pool together. They shared plenty of water when they were younger, however.
From the age of 5, all three Wattersons were members of the Baldwin-Whitehall Swim Club, a Pittsburgh-area youth team that was then coached by their father. David Watterson was a standout high school and collegiate swimmer and has never stopped competing. He currently swims on a Pittsburgh masters team.
“Swimming definitely helped us build a bond,” Liam Watterson said. “Having a good kind of competition among us helped bring us together.”
Although the siblings attended different high schools, they all excelled in the pool. T.C. Watterson qualified for the western Pennsylvania finals four times at Brentwood High School and was a team captain and Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference record-holder in the mile swim while at Penn State Behrend.
Anna Watterson swam on section-winning teams at Seton-LaSalle High School. She also was a team captain at Penn State Behrend, where she won six individual event titles and helped the Lions capture three AMCC championships.
Liam set a school record in the 200 individual medley in his senior year at Baldwin High School. He was named to the AMCC all-conference second team in his first season at Penn State Behrend.
“He’s just getting started,” Wallace said. “With his drive and lots of hard work, Liam certainly has the potential to get his name up (on the record board.)”
Liam and Anna Watterson were only on campus together for one semester. “I’ve never been more appreciative of having a sister than I was during my first months at Behrend,” he said. “She helped me with a ton of stuff, as has T.C., even though he’s not here on campus.”
He also has the rest of his swim team for support.
“They already feel like family to me,” he said.
We asked the Wattersons: What was your favorite event?
T.C.: "Backstroke, because I could breathe for the whole race. But my main event was the 1,650 -- the mile swim."
Anna: "Freestyle takes the cake. My events were the long-distance frees: the 500, 1,650 and the 400 IM."
Liam: "Backstroke. My favorite events are the 100 back, 200 back and the 50 free."