The former Pope High School standout helped lead the Lady Bulldogs to four Southeastern Conference championships. She then capped her career last week in Indianapolis by playing a role in helping Georgia win its first NCAA championship since 2005.
After playing second fiddle to California the last two seasons, the Lady Bulldogs used their depth to finish on top.
Their victory became official when they won the 400-yard freestyle relay, led by Allison Schmitt — a five-time medalist at the London Olympics. The relay set an NCAA record time of 3 minutes, 9.4 seconds.
“It was a really fun experience,” Gaid said. “We’ve gotten second the past two years. If you’re not first, you’re last, and it was one thing that we wanted this year. We knew going into the first day that, if we had a good session, we would be at a good place. Going into the last day, we were ahead by 15 points and that’s when we knew we were going to win.”
Gaid, who qualified for the NCAA championships all four years of her college career, placed 15th in her strongest event — the 200 backstroke — with a time of 1:55.39. She also made the finals in two other events she hadn’t swam in previous years — the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle.
Gaid, along with Chantal Van Landeghem, Lauren Harrington and former Lassiter swimmer Shannon O’Malley, finished 14th in the 200 medley (1:38.31) and 16th in the 200 freestyle (1:46.42).
Gaid and the Lady Bulldogs also got help from former Walton standout Jessica Graber, who was on the 200 freestyle relay team that finished second (1:27.38).
An exercise and sports science major on track to graduate in May, Gaid will leave Georgia as its record-holder in the 200 backstroke (1:53.31), a mark she recorded in this year’s SEC championship. She also has the second-lowest time in the 100 backstroke (53.14), also recorded at the SEC championship.
Another highlight of Gaid’s final season was receiving an endowed scholarship from the UGA Athletic Association. Before the season, she qualified for the 2012 Olympic trials in four events — the 200 and 400 freestyles, and the 100 and 200 backstrokes.
After graduation, Gaid said he will serve as the summer league coach for the Hampton Woods neighborhood team in east Cobb. She said she’s also applying to be a physicians’ assistant.
Ultimately for Gaid, leaving Georgia will be bittersweet.
“I think what I will miss the most is the competitiveness, the racing part and being a part of the team,” she said. “I think my favorite part was training with the team every day, and it was a fun atmosphere. I’ll miss that part.”