A record-breaking swimmer motivates her team with a clever blend of skill and spunk.
By Gareen Darakjian
The next time you attend a Pepperdine swim meet, you will find an effervescent blonde on the sidelines cracking jokes or doing a funny dance trying to loosen up her teammates before their race—“something weird to try to snap them out of their intense focus,” says Jessica Mosbaugh, a Seaver College senior on the Pepperdine swimming and diving team, who is not only the self-proclaimed cheerleader of the group, but also owns Pepperdine records in the 200 breaststroke, 100 breaststroke, 200 butterfly, and 200 individual medley. She was also the 2014 and 2015 Pacific Collegiate Swim and Dive Conference (PCSC) champion in the 200 breaststroke.
“Setting records hasn’t been something I’ve set out to do,” explains the diminutive athlete, “it just happened along the way. My ultimate goal was to swim for four years and do the best I could. The records have been an added bonus. My biggest accomplishment has been getting along with my teammates and the camaraderie we’ve established.”
In fact, Mosbaugh’s proudest moment on the team was when her training partner and best friend Allison Naasz, a senior majoring in media production, broke one of the oldest standing records in Pepperdine history after finishing runner-up in the 200 freestyle at this year’s PCSC championship.
“The whole team was in tears,” recalls Mosbaugh. “I had a race in a few minutes, but my mind was just on Allison and being there for her. That motivated me going into my race. Those moments are very special and keep me interested in swimming.”
Swimming since she was 4 years old, the psychology major thought her athletic career would end after a successful run in high school. Though her childhood swim instructor advised her parents to encourage the “gifted” athlete to swim competitively, Mosbaugh explored a multitude of other sports, including softball and soccer, before choosing swimming as a high school student.
“My parents never pushed swimming on me, but that’s the sport I chose and I have been happy ever since,” she says.
When Mosbaugh visited Pepperdine’s Malibu campus for the first time in 2005 for her father Bob’s (MBA ’05, PKE 113) graduation from the Presidents and Key Executives MBA program, she was in awe of the endless ocean view, the lush, green hillside, and the vibrant colors that decorated the scene. But more than anything, the fifth grader was mesmerized by the glimmering pool that she gazed at through the gates when she first caught a glimpse of it.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off of the water and how calm it looked,” she recalls. “It was beautiful, and that’s when I decided I was coming here. It was Pepperdine or nothing. I wasn’t even thinking about swimming at that point.”
Her father was surprised but pleased by her confidence in her choosing his alma mater.
“When I went to Pepperdine, I wasn’t even thinking about the possibility of her going there,” Bob explains. “When she went to my graduation, she didn’t know what the school was about, but she had made up her mind. She found a place that was good for her and never changed her dream or passion. She lived it out.”
Mosbaugh now credits her experience on the swim team with being the capstone of her college experience.
“Being on the swim team has had its challenges, but I’ve also taken a lot away from it, like sisterhood and discipline,” she explains.
“The relationships I’ve made with my coaches along with my teammates has been the best thing. Being on the team has also helped me stay focused on my academics and on going to class and getting good grades and studying hard.”
In each of her three years at the University, Mosbaugh has earned the Pepperdine Scholar-Athlete recognition. More than challenging her to rise academically, she says her Pepperdine experience has also developed her skills and attitude as an athlete.
“It has given me a lot more confidence in myself,” she enthuses. “Being part of this team and part of this school has allowed me to step into a leadership role. It wasn’t until last year that I realized I was actually good at school. Being at this challenging university and competing in classrooms for grades has developed me into a well-rounded individual who is capable in stepping up in times like that.”
Through it all, she has heard her father’s encouraging voice, which has motivated her to reach greater heights and accomplish goals while staying true to herself.
“I have always told her, ‘If you have a passion for it, pursue it,’” Bob explains. “’Pursue anything that makes you happy. If it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to move on.’”
“She has learned to challenge herself and really understood if you practice hard, good results will come,” he continues. “That’s with anything in life. I always told her to practice like you want to play. I don’t care if that’s at school, at her job, or in swim. The more you put into your preparation, the better you’ll do in your performance. She has accomplished that. She has exceeded all of our expectations.”