Longhorn Hall of Honor: Carol Borgmann Robertson
Nov. 18, 2010
Carol Borgmann Robertson competed for Texas in a much simpler era.
Swim team members trained on dry land using rope ladders and performed unusual exercises like upside down sit-ups. Pre-dawn walks to the practice pool from the Kinsolving dormitory doubled as team-building and team-bonding exercises.
As they walked, they glanced upward toward the UT Tower. For Texas women's swimmers in the early 1980s, the Tower not only guided them -- it also provided their purpose.
In 1980, the UT women's athletics department was just seven years old. Never before had a women's team lit the Tower orange, the university's traditional way of honoring a national championship team. Robertson and the 1980-81 Longhorns became the first, a testament to what happens when team glory is an individual's only pursuit.
Robertson personified the term, "great teammate." She was a three-time AIAW national event champion in the medley relay events. Robertson was an All-American in 18 different races.
"I just enjoyed competing," Robertson says. "We all trained so hard because we wanted to be so good. We thought it would be neat for us to work hard and become the best. Nobody had ever lit that tower before."
Robertson also trained in the same lane as her friend and competitor, Jill Sterkel, another of UT's swimming greats and UT Hall of Honor member.
"I became great because Carol pushed me there," Sterkel has said numerous times when reflecting on her own collegiate and Olympic success.
Together, under the direction of coach Paul Bergen, they helped lay the groundwork for what soon became the nation's top women's swimming and diving program.
When Texas won its first team title in 1981, Robertson won the 100 individual medley and was the third-highest point scorer at the national meet. She finished her career in similar style, winning both the 100 and 200 individual medleys as Texas won its second AIAW crown in 1982.
"We never assumed anything of ourselves. If we wanted something, we worked for it," Robertson says. "I looked up to Jill. She really was the glue who held everything together, and we all wanted to become great for each other."
Robertson earned her UT diploma in 1983 with an education degree, and she credits former academic counselor Dr. Sheila Rice as her inspiration.
"It's very rewarding to say that you have that degree hanging on your wall," Robertson says. "I struggled early with my discipline in the classroom. My junior year, I just cracked down. And I'm so thankful."
Today, Carol is program and staff director at Camp Longhorn in the Texas Hill Country. She and her husband, Bill - a member of UT's first men's swimming and diving team to win a NCAA team title - have four children: sons Jim, Will and Joe, and daughter, Fran.