SWIMMING: Sophomore Downs Makes A Splash In Her Debut Season At BC
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
It has been an up and down season for the Boston College women’s swimming and diving team. The Eagles have been met with definitive success in some meets while falling short in others.
Amidst the successes and shortcomings of the team, one sophomore swimmer stands out, giving a particularly outstanding performance during the New England Catholic Invite the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20. Emily Downs finished first in the 100-yard freestyle event with a time of 53.81, as well as third in both the 200-yard freestyle and 50-yard freestyle. She also contributed to a first-place finish during the 200-yard freestyle relay, helping the Eagles finish with a 1:38.88 time.
Such success in any given meet is impressive, but for Downs, being competitive at a college level was not always in her plans. In fact, Downs originally chose not to join the swimming and diving team during her freshman year, opting instead to take some time off from a sport that had consumed much of her life before college.
“I was born into a swimming family—I had my first swim lesson at six months,” Downs said. “After senior year my last meet wasn’t as great as I would’ve hoped, and I wanted to go to college and see who I was without swimming.”
Downs spent her freshman year at BC out of the pool, but gradually found herself drawn back to swimming.
“I kind of missed it and thought I would regret it if I didn’t give it a shot,” said Downs, a Wayland, Mass. native.
After deciding to return to the sport, Downs faced a period of transition, working particularly hard to catch up with her teammates.
“I was definitely way more out of shape than everyone,” she said. “I never swam two meets in a row, so that was very hard for me. In that way, I’m behind everyone, but hopefully I’ll catch up.”
Downs will have the opportunity to test herself again this weekend at the Terrier Invitational, a three-day event starting tomorrow.
Despite the ups and downs of the season thus far, Downs feels as though the Eagles have shown improvement since last season, when they finished in last place during the ACC Championships. She also hopes that their increasing success will lead to more recognition for the swimming and diving team on campus.
“We’re doing better this year than we have been, so hopefully that will get more attention for the team,” Downs said. “We’ve had a lot of competitive meets.”
In terms of the team’s strengths, Downs pointed to the distribution of talent throughout the team’s entire roster.
“Our greatest strength would be depth right now, and because of that we have a lot of people competing for the top spots in every event,” she said. “It makes everyone work a lot harder in practice.”
The swimming and diving season began at the end of September and will continue well into February. With the season not even halfway through, Downs predicts that the Eagles will improve even more.
“I couldn’t pick an event off the top of my head, but there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “I might say the longer distance strokes. Those are always really hard and we do them well, but they are always the hardest.”
On a personal level, Downs is hoping to show improvement during the Terrier Invitational. She is, however, aware of possible limitations due to the time she took off last year.
“Everyone tries to do their best times [at the Terrier Invitational], which is interesting cause it’s in the middle of the season,” Downs said. “I would like to drop some more time, but I don’t really know what to expect considering I’ve taken time off and I don’t really know what I’m capable of doing. I think it’ll be a surprise.”
Despite any setbacks she has experienced because of her time off, Downs has no regrets about waiting to join the team.
“I think it was something I needed to do,” she said. “I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with swimming. At the end of senior year I was kind of done with it, and I needed to do a little soul searching.”
Since joining the team, Downs has felt the benefits of being on a collegiate squad, including the team bonding and athleticism experienced only by student-athletes. She does admit, however, to having some doubts about returning.
“I didn’t really know how it would be, getting back into it,” she said. “But it’s been pretty good. It’s been a lot of fun. Practices are manageable. If you put in the effort, it pays off.”
As for her success in the New England Catholic Invite, Downs claims she was not expecting to perform as well as she did, nor does she credit her success to any one thing.
“It might have been the atmosphere,” she said. “Everyone was really excited to be there. It was a really fun meet to watch. I kind of surprised [myself], too.”