Four years ago there was a moment of “almost.” Last night, however, that “almost” became a “first,” as the first female swimmer or diver in the history of Colgate University advanced to the Division-I NCAA Championships, held this year at Texas A&M from March 19-21. Only a week prior, Colgate Swimming and Diving Head Coach Stephen Jungbluth decided that senior Emily Murphy needed just one more chance at swimming the 100-yard breaststroke to boost her chance of qualifying. Three hours later, they were on a plane headed south for the Bulldog Last Chance Meet, held at the University of Georgia.
There, Murphy pulled off something amazing. Besting her Patriot League Championship time of 1:01.23 in the 100-yard breaststroke, Murphy’s time trial of 1:00.86 placed her in prime contention to become the first female swimmer at Colgate to advance to the Division I NCAA Championship meet.
Last night, at 7 p.m., her dream of over four years came true. Coming in at 29th in the nation, she was ten slots above the cut-off line posted after 1:01.20. Over spring break, Murphy will travel to Texas A&M University to compete in the 100-yard breastsroke, 200-yard breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley. The last two events she had achieved “consideration” status in by swimming a “B” level qualifying time. By making the cut in the 100m breaststroke, Murphy secured berths in the other races as well.
“In any other year, her time of 1:01.23 would be an automatic bid [not on the bubble],” Assistant Coach Amy Krakauer noted. “This is an unbelievably fast year in this sport.”
Indeed, the competition is stiff, with over 100 world records falling in the 2008 calendar year.
“[The NCAA D-I Swimming and Diving Championships] is one of the fastest meets in the world,” Murphy said.
However, with 20-plus hours of weekly training, and the support of her team and Colgate behind her, she travels with much confidence, as Murphy is now a pioneer in the realm of Colgate women’s swimming. Furthermore, the fact that she posted her qualifying time in a time trial, after all registered races were finished, is proof as well; her sole companion in the pool lagged behind her by seconds, providing no real competitive drive.
Through no lack of determination, Murphy pushed herself and the clock.
“It’s been my ultimate goal to go to this meet,” Murphy said.
The senior and her coach singled out the meet as a goal when she was merely a first-year.
“I’ve always known she had the potential to make it,” Jungbluth said. “We’ve been talking about it this long.”
After posting a time that was almost above the cut in 2006 to make the NCAA Championships, Murphy approached her future hopeful, only to be brought down by a groin injury. The next year and a half she battled, but by senior year was back in striking position.
“She single-handedly put us on the national stage,” Jungbluth said. “[Her performance] is really amazing. That’s historical. That’s incredible. This year, because the other times are so fast, it’s more incredible.”
“I think that it’s a great milestone for the program and sends the message to incoming athletes that at Colgate you can get a great education and as an athlete compete at the highest level,” Director of Athletics Dave Roach said.
With two consecutive Patriot League titles under their belt, it seems that the NCAA Championship meet was the next pristine step for the team to reach. Even with her moment in the spotlight, Murphy never ceased to sing the praises of her team.
“I love that I was a part of bringing the team to a level it’s never been to before,” Murphy said. “I used to swim for my team, but not as much as I do here.”
Likewise, Jungbluth stresses the importance of his coaching staff.
“[We] would not have been able to do it without the complete coaching staff,” Jungbluth said. He credits the expansion of the staff with allowing the swimmers more one-on-one training with coaches, and a more serious training experience.
Anyway the topic is approached, one thing becomes clear: Colgate women’s swimming is now a presence on the national scene. Even when it looked shaky for Murphy, her coaches were convinced she had accomplished what was necessary to make the cut. Now, the woman who began swimming at age nine is headed to the “Big Dance” and can only look to the future of the program she has worked so hard in.
“I can’t wait to look back as an alum and see the great things these girls are doing,” Murphy said. “I can’t imagine not having it in my life.”