Haebig Has Swam Her Way Into the Husker Record Books
Story by Shawn Ekwall • Photos by NU Sports Information
Competitive swimming has been a way of life for Nebraska fifth-year senior Autumn Haebig.
From years of following her older sister Stephanie’s journey to finding herself immersed in the club and high school scene, it’s always been a busy path.
But admittedly, Haebig originally didn’t find a fondness for the sport.
“I got dragged along to every swim meet of my sister’s when I was young,” Haebig said. “I hated it at first. I actually quit when I was 10 and rejoined when I was 11.”
It didn’t take long for a strong passion to develop. Success followed. And since finding her groove, Haebig emerged as one of Wisconsin’s top high school swimmers, winning 14 events and finishing runner-up twice over four years at the state meet for Grafton High School.
It was at that point that Haebig began to ponder swimming at the next level.
“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I could do this and continue for another four or five years.’”
With a nudge from her Ozaukee Aquatics Club coach and former NU swimmer Steve Keller, Haebig decided to take a recruiting visit to Lincoln.
“He was like, ‘You know, you’d look good in red,’” Haebig remembers.
Once on campus, Haebig was hooked. With former Husker Erin Oeltjen as her tour host, Haebig came away impressed with the family-like atmosphere and the academic support systems in place to help NU athletes thrive.
“My trip was so much fun,” she said. “The sense of family within the team really stuck with me. It was so genuine. And the overall experience for student-athlete life and academic support was amazing.”
To say Haebig has flourished during her five years at NU would be an understatement. Her best event is the 200 freestyle, in which she is the reigning Big Ten champion. Her career-best and winning time of 1:44.39 in Minneapolis gave NU its first-ever individual champion at the conference meet, and she was the Huskers’ first champion since Lauren Bailey won the 1,650 free at the Big 12 meet in 2007.
The moment produced a scene that seemed almost surreal.
“Honestly, I’m not even sure if I still process it,” Haebig said about the aftermath of her win. “You’re in your own world up there on the podium and they play your school song when they announce your name. After I got off the podium, I got so many huge hugs and so much love and support from people at that moment.”
Haebig would go on to tally 11 points at the national championships. She earned All-American status in both the 200 free (ninth place) and 500 free (14th) while helping NU to a 26th-place finish, its best showing since 2001.
She’s continued to shine after deciding to use her fifth and final year of eligibility. Her list of accolades at NU is long. She holds five individual school records, and she is aiming to trim her school-record time in the 500 free from 4:41.83 down to 4:40.
With a competitive practice environment spawned by a team that long-time NU coach Pablo Morales calls “the best group of swimmers we’ve had” and a team chemistry that Haebig said has “definitely grown” over her five years, anything is possible.
“This year the team is really together and unified,” she said. “There’s just so much positivity from the other girls on the team and the coaches. You can just feel the energy.”
Haebig is quick to credit her family for their endless support and encouragement. Competitive swimming, like all club sports, can be costly and time consuming. And watching mom (Linda) and dad (Steve) take older sister to practices and meets was an eye-opening experience.
“My sister’s the reason why I even started swimming,” Haebig said. She ended up swimming at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater “and she kept me going.”
“Mom and dad have always supported me and have always been there for me over the years, too.”
And when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports during the second semester of 2020, Haebig was able to train at home as mom and dad made healthy meals and did whatever they could to provide the support she needed.
“I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Grafton, with a population shy of 12,000, is just north of Milwaukee. Following the season and school year, Haebig is planning to return home to find a job.
“I know my career is slowly winding down,” she said. “My goal is to make the NCAAs for a fourth time and hopefully get on a podium. I definitely want it to end with a bang.”