Freshman Pate aims for future Olympics
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 20:10
When freshman Emily Pate began swimming at eight years old for her local summer team in State College, Pa., she said she felt out of place among the more advanced swimmers her age and found it difficult to keep up.
At points, she said, she even considered quitting.
“I hated it,” Pate said. “It was so hard and I wasn’t very good, but then at my first summer-league race I won, and I realized that I was really competitive, I really liked winning and I liked the people I was with.”
After her unexpected win, Pate said her love of the sport grew, and she began swimming for the Nittany Lion Aquatic Club year round until she was 14 years old. While swimming at State College Area High School, she became team captain in her senior year.
Although Pate said she always dreamed about swimming at the collegiate level, it wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she seriously considered the possibility.
Upon visiting the university, men’s and women’s team swimming coach John Hayman told her in order to snag a spot on the team she had to finish the 100-meter breaststroke in one minute and five seconds by her senior year.
“I was like, ‘OK,’ and I put those times on my goal sheet,” Pate said.
At her first dual meet against Georgetown University, Pate placed first in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, making her a top finisher for the day. She continued her consistency when Delaware traveled to Washington D.C. on Oct. 13 to face off against George Mason.
Hayman said he has been impressed by her performance this early in the season. He said she is swimming faster than she swam in her senior year of high school, but he believes that it was not just talent that got those first place finishes.
“Both Georgetown and George Mason were weak in Emily’s strong events, so it’s just kind of how fate had it that she’s won those events in breaststroke,” Hayman said.
Even though he said Pate had luck on her side, he believes she is a very accomplished swimmer and can continue to win against the more difficult breaststroke opponents like Towson, and Old Dominion if she keeps up with the training.
Hayman said he feels confident Pate will improve because during recruitment he could tell how mature she is for her age. He also said her decision to major in civil engineering would reflect how she would perform on the team. He said over the years he has trained hundreds of engineers, and they have all seemed to be very structured, self-motivated and disciplined.
Pate, he said, fits into this category. For Pate, the most difficult aspect of college life, she said, is trying to balance the workload with her practices and swim meets. She said thanks to her time management skills, it does not feel overwhelming.
Although there are several challenges with transitioning to a new team, Pate said the biggest difference she is happy with is the level of camaraderie and support she gets from her new teammates.
“In high school there weren’t as many people on the team that really wanted to be there or were involved,” she said. “And I feel like all my teammates here really love the team, we all have the same goal, and we all want to improve, and I really enjoy that because everyone supports you.”
She said it is a better team atmosphere than in high school. She said swimming also provides her with a distraction when she misses family and gives her a way to let out her frustrations.
“It’s almost therapeutic because I go to practice and can just let everything out and forget about all the tests I have and just focus on swimming,” Pate said. “It’s always been a way to release my energy and competitive side in a healthy way.”
Whenever she finds free time, Pate said she likes to exercise, read and hang out with her teammates.
Pate said she spends time with senior co-captain Mackenzie Howarth and other girls in her “family,” a group of swimmers who she said have similar personalities and often meet outside the pool to socialize.
When the girls get together Pate is always very outgoing, has a good sense of humor and is interested in learning more about the team, according to Howarth.
“I think Emily is trying to figure out everybody’s personalities on the team and last time we were together we were just talking about past stories that have happened and she was really interested in the team history,” Howarth said.
For now, Pate said her immediate goal is to keep dropping times so she can place in the top 16 of the NCAA Championships this year. She said she plans to keep training in and out of the pool, and by the end of her Delaware career she wants to at least make the 2016 Summer Olympic tryouts.
Although she said she knows getting to the Olympics is a long shot, it would be an awesome way to end her swimming career on a high note.
“I know that Delaware had a couple swimmers that were really close to trial cuts and I think that would be a really cool thing to be able to do at the end of my college swimming career and just end it there would be a really great thing to finish on,” Pate said.