Press "Enter" to skip to content

Older Swimmers Inspire Team

Two resuming students, both non-traditional age, are heading
into their first season as Mills Cyclones swimmers this fall,
exemplifying the Mills Athletic Department’s attitude of inclusion
and sportsmanship.

Junior Bonniebrooke Bullock and senior Xu Wang transferred
recently to Mills from local community colleges. Both women are in
their 30s, and neither has an extensive background in competitive

While growing up in China, Wang spent much of her time playing
and swimming in the river by her hometown. One year during an
especially large flood, she decided to try to swim across the river
with a few friends. “I was looking for a challenge,” she said.

Not much has changed since then. At age 38, Wang picked up
karate. One year later, she is still practicing hard. “It’s
definitely the sport I’m most dedicated to,” she said.

After transferring from Vista Community College last January,
Wang began looking for another challenge and went to talk to Neil
Virtue, head coach of the swim team. “I felt that I discovered
myself with karate, maybe I could continue to improve my swimming
skills, too,” she said.

Last semester, Wang trained with the Cyclones, making vast
improvements to her stroke and stamina. “Whatever success you make
here is based on your own starting level, so there’s always a
reward,” she said.

Bullock’s interest in competitive swimming was sparked when she
was a lifeguard watching the Laney women’s team work out. She
joined the team and spent her final two years at Laney competing
and working out with women of all ages and physical

Swimming ended up being one of the deciding factors in the
institutions she researched when getting ready to leave Laney.
“Some part of my decision to come to Mills was the swim team. I
didn’t feel like I would be able to be 35 and swim and be supported
at a school like Berkeley or San Francisco State.”

“We try to provide a place for people to take something they’re
interested in and run with it,” said Virtue. “The fact that women
of all ages can get involved embodies the liberal arts attitude and
especially the attitude of our department.”

The age difference “isn’t a big deal,” said Wang. Bullock
agreed, “I’m still the same person as I was when I was 18…I
definitely don’t feel like I’m 35,” she said.

The “small smattering” of resumers that play for Mills every
year, according to Virtue, can set a strong example for the rest of
the athletes, bringing a different perspective of competition and
teamwork to the table.

Resumer athletes at Mills “tend to be admirable figures for the
other athletes,” said Virtue. “When they see someone step out of
their comfort zone it sets the tone. They’re really an

“I realize now that competition isn’t about winning,” said
Bullock. “As an older person I see that it’s more about putting
myself in a situation where I can push myself to do my best. I’m
just proud to complete the race. It feels good.”