Prior to entering Penn, Bob Atkinson participated at the 1968 Olympic Trials. That was the precedent for what would be an outstanding swimming career at Penn.

Consider this: when he graduated in 1973, Atkinson held or was a part of no fewer than eight Sheerr Pool and/or varsity records: the 200-yard freestyle, 100 and 200 backstroke, 200 and 400 individual medley (IM), 400 and 800 free relays, and 400 medley relay.

In 1971, Atkinson swam to All-America recognition in three events at the NCAA Championships-the 200-yard IM, the 800 free relay, and the 400 medley relay. The 1971 Quakers won the Ivy League's dual-meet title with a 7-0 record, including their first win over Yale in 55 years. (To give you a sense of Yale's dominance during that time, consider that prior to 1970-71 the Bulldogs had lost one Ivy/Army/Navy dual meet since 1962-63-to Army in 1965-66-and just three dual meets since 1946-47!). Penn then hosted and won the EISL Championships that March, scoring 309 points to outswim second-place Princeton. During that meet, Atkinson helped the 800 free relay team win the title, marking Penn's only relay win in the championship meet's history.

In 1972, Atkinson helped Penn earn All-America in the 800-yard free relay, while in 1973 he was an All-America in the 400-yard IM. Atkinson's best overall performance may have come at the 1973 EISL Championships, where the senior captain won three individual events and in the process set two meet records. He was crowned champion in the 200 IM (meet record 1:55.01), the 400 IM (meet record 4:05.68, shattering the previous mark of 4:08.84), and the 200-yard backstroke (1:54.34).

Atkinson was just the third Penn athlete to earn an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, in 1973.