In 2009, Dagny Knuston was one of the most coveted college prospects in the nation. The previous year, she set an American record in the 400 meter individual medley at the age of 16. Despite her success in national and international competition, many in the swimming community were surprised when she turned down a full scholarship to Auburn University to go professional.
After signing with an agent, the North Dakota native moved to California to train and accepted a performance-based stipend from USA Swimming. Her funding from the organization ended after her rankings dropped when she temporarily left the sport to seek treatment for physical and emotional issues. During this time Knuston also petitioned the NCAA to regain her amateur status, which would have allowed here to compete at the college level again.
The college sports governing body denied her request, citing the fact that she had signed with an agent. While it looked as though Knuston's dreams of being involved with college swimming were dashed, the coaching staff at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, has stepped in to help. The 21-year-old swimmer will be given a full academic scholarship to complete her degree in education. In exchange, she will help mentor student athletes. She's not hanging up her swimsuits for racing just yet, though. While she cannot participate in NCAA competitions, she is free to practice with post-grad athletes affiliated with the university.
Knuston told The New York Times that while Grand Canyon's offer was unexpected, she wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of it.
"It's basically a miracle," Knuston told the publication. "I couldn't have asked for a better situation. I mean, the option to compete, to train again, will always be there, but that is not really my priority. My priority is to get through school, and this is a great opportunity to do that without a huge financial burden."
She will begin her studies in January.