Last weekend, Blue Swimming and Diving captured its 19th consecutive Seven Sisters title. The Blue handily defeated the competition with a score of 1212 points while Vassar took the silver medal with a score of 779.5 points. Blue Swimming and Diving showed its strength by winning 10 out of 17 total events throughout the two-day competition. Some of the best performances from the Blue during the Seven Sisters Championship came from first year Cathy Chen, who won the 50m Free, helped set a Seven Sisters record in the 200 Medley Relay and aided in the first place Wellesley finish in the 400 Medley Relay. Chen hails from Parsippany, NJ where she swam and ran track competitively. She brought both her swimming and running talents to Wellesley, as she will compete on the Wellesley Track and Field team upon completing her rookie swimming season. Wellesley News sat down with Chen and discussed her emergence as a competitive swimmer and how she transitioned from swimming on a club team in high school to swimming at a collegiate level.
Laura Brindley ’16 (L.B.): Who or what made you start swimming?
Cathy Chen ’19 (C.C.): I started swimming because my mom cannot swim, and she was afraid of the potential that I would drown in the water, so she sent me to swimming lessons. The head instructor at my local Y prompted my mom to have me try out for the Y swim team, so I went to try out, and I’m still surprised that I made the team. I was five years old and only knew how to swim two strokes – freestyle and backstroke – and for the tryout I had to swim three. They just kind of threw me in the third event, and it went pretty terribly, but one of the coaches said that he liked my kick, so I ended up making the team. I swam for that Y team for 13 years.
L.B.: What made you decide to swim at Wellesley?
C.C.: I have been swimming my whole life and I wanted to continue with that into college. It’s something that has been a part of me for so long that I couldn’t imagine letting that go once I got into college. I really wanted to swim at a collegiate level and compete with other talented swimmers.
L.B.: What has been the biggest change from high school swimming to college swimming?
C.C.: I never actually swam for my high school team. I swam the first year, but it conflicted too much with club swimming, which took precedence. The biggest difference would probably be the atmosphere. On my Y team, there was a lot of negative energy. Everyone had known each other and had been swimming their whole lives. It was kind of monotonous, and you didn’t really think about what you were doing. You were just there. Here, I come to train with other girls who are really motivated and want the team to do well. They provide a lot of positive feedback and motivation to the rest of the team. I would say that is the biggest difference.
L.B.: What is your favorite event?
C.C.: The 50 Free. It’s short. It’s a splash-and-dash, and you are done in 30 seconds.
L.B.: Did you do any other sports besides swimming growing up?
C.C.: I played soccer from when I was five and throughout high school. I stopped when I came to college. I also ran track, and I will be running track for Wellesley once I finish swimming. I played club soccer called “Super Y,” and I stopped when I got to high school because it conflicted with swimming. As for track, I ran for my town’s recreation team, and when I got to high school, I ran for my school. I run the 400 meter hurdles and will be doing that this spring.
L.B.: Describe an average day at swimming practice.
C.C.: We start off with a warm-up and then go into smaller sets. There will be a different focus at each practice such as technique, strength or speed. As we get into the championship season, we focus more on speed. We work hard in lift and translate some of that power into our swimming. A lot of focus is still on technique alongside speed.
L.B.: Do you have any pre-meet rituals?
C.C.: I don’t really have one. I try to stay relaxed before meets and I like to clear my mind to stay focused. Sometimes I will talk to other people behind the blocks depending on my mood and how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes talking to people can help me ease my mind before harder races.
L.B.: What are some of your personal and team goals for the remainder of the season?
C.C.: I want to finish off the season keeping up with my technique and improve my times. I want to swim with a good race strategy and not stray away from that. I just want to swim fast at NEWMACs! Our captains want us to do well at NEWMACs. Supporting the team is big because you never know how everyone is going to do because we have all been training really differently. One huge team goal is having everyone place at NEWMACs.
L.B.: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
C.C.: I would say there are a couple: Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky, who are all swimmers. I really like how they are always changing their race strategies and looking for techniques to help them become faster. They are always open to new things and work really hard.
L.B.: If you could give advice to someone wanting to swim at Wellesley next year, what would you tell them?
C.C.: Be open to change. It is a lot different coming from a high school program or a club team. The atmosphere is different, but it is good. It is good to have a new beginning and start off a new swimming career with fresh ideas.
Blue Swimming and Diving will compete at the NEWMAC Championship at MIT February 18-21.
Photo courtesy of wellesleyblue.com