By CLAIRE TOBIN
While competitive swimming is daunting, coaching an entire swim team takes intense drive and passion for the sport. Few individuals are cut out for coaching, and of those who are, even fewer are able to foster a positive team dynamic and grow a program the way Head Coach Anne James has with Colorado College’s Swim and Dive team. James has a deep love for swimming and is fiercely dedicated to the program here at CC. I had the opportunity to sneak in a few questions despite James’ busy schedule to see if I could pin down what makes the swim team at CC so robust.
James began swimming at age eight when she was recruited by the coach at her local YMCA. According to James, she moved a lot as a young kid, so swimming always gave her a group of friends to belong to right away in each new place, as well as when she got to college. In her senior year of high school, James decided she wanted to be a college coach and admitted that she never wavered from that. She is now in her 42nd year as a college head coach. “My goal is to make it to 50 years,” James said.
In their most recent meet, which was also their first home meet, the high-altitude Tigers swam to a 183-60 victory over CSU Pueblo. This was a meet that, based on the times from earlier this year, should have been much closer,” according to James. During the last week of practices, the swim team has put in some especially hard training that has clearly paid off.
The Tigers came out strong in the first event of the day, taking the first three places in the 3-meter dive. The momentum only continued throughout the day with some outstanding performances from swimmers across the board. “We had several multiple winners, and several freshmen that really showed some intensity and speed. Senior Justina Zuckerman was phenomenal in the sprint freestyle events, going season best times and beating CSUP’s top swimmer,” James said. Senior Emily Harrison swam to a decisive win in her standard event—the 1000m freestyle—and then captured the win in the 100m backstroke, which is not a normal event for her, according to James. “Freshman Emileigh Rafidi had a huge time drop to win the 100 breast, and [first-year] Dervla Moore-Frederick showed her versatility and tenacity with big swims this weekend. [Senior] Mary Rose Donahue won both boards, with scores that qualified her for the NCAA Region meet. [Sophomore] Riley Wadehra was just one point behind Mary Rose,” James said proudly.
James noted that the CC Swim Team excels in how well they work together and their ability to perform under pressure. Their specific strengths lie in the sprint free, butterfly, and breaststroke depth for women, and their sprint, middle-distance free, and butterfly for men.
However, there is always room for improvement; James would like to see several NCAA National Qualifying Standards and a second-place finish at SCAC for the women with a third-place finish for men. “We strive to be a positive, dynamic and hard-working team every day. Each person will finish the season with personal records,” James said.
Even though swimmers and divers compete individually, James views it as a team sport. “What makes those individual performances matter is how each contributes to the team’s success. Our team is invested in each other’s success and celebrates every improvement for their teammates,” she said.
By enforcing a unified view of the sport, James has successfully created an encouraging and enthusiastic team. “This is a team that has great energy. They are very much a family who supports each other in and out of the pool,” James shared, speaking from the heart.
James is married with two adult children and enjoys hiking, yoga, and calligraphy in her free time. You can see her coaching in action at the next swim meet today, at the Schlessman Natorium.