By Christine Loughery
Moments before her 200 butterfly race, with her team lined up along the side of the pool for support, Emily Messina stood behind her lane strategizing her upcoming swim at the 2016 Landmark Conference championship meet. As she stepped up onto the block for the start of the race her team screamed, “Go Emily!” Little did Messina or the Catholic University swim team know that she was about to shatter the longest standing women’s school record as a rookie.
Freshman swimmer, Emily Messina, broke the women’s 200 butterfly record, which dated back to 1998. She shattered this record by over 2 full seconds when she clocked in at 2:09.42. This was one of the few records that Catholic University head swim coach, Paul Waas, did not have as a coach.
Messina, who specializes in this event, smiled when she said that she had been close to breaking this record all season and that it was really exciting to have secured a spot on the record board at this championship meet.
“I had a lot of confidence that she would break the school record (2:12), and to see her come in under 2:10 was just awesome,” Waas said.
Messina felt strong during this race and was excited to be able to get up and race her competition. She that said a large portion of this success was due to the strategy she had been working on with Waas, which focused on “the more technical aspect” of the race.
“I worked on keeping a comfortable speed on the first 100 and elongating my stroke. This helped my lung capacity and my legs. On the second 100 I tried to really work my walls,” Messina said.
Waas said that Messina put in a lot of hard work for all of her events this season. He said that she “deserves a lot of credit for being willing to try different approaches.“
“From early in the season both she and I were excited about what her 200 fly could be by the end of the year. As the season went on, we figured out she swam it best when she relaxed a bit on the first 100, and extended her underwaters on the back half. It was important for her to get enough air early in the race so she would have her legs at the end,” Waas said.
In preparation for this event, Messina put in months of hard training up until a few weeks before this championship meet. During the final weeks of the season she focused on resting and eating healthy in order to ensure that her body was to race.
Messina said that what made this experience even more exciting and fun was the “high morale and positivity of the team” as well as the “support system” of the spectators.
During the entire meet, the Catholic University swim team was up motivating each other. Messina said that during her record-breaking 200 butterfly she specifically remembers her teammates cheering at the ends of her lane and the sides of the pool. This encouraged her to keep pushing during her race.
Messina reciprocated this support and motivation to her teammates. The Catholic University women’s swim team captain, Michelle Navarro, said that this sense of support is the vision of the team and that Emily has always worked to embody it.
“Emily Messina truly embodies the vision of the Catholic University Swim and Dive Team, never faltering in her commitment to the teams success in her words and actions, as well as her steadfast support to her teammates in the lanes beside her. Although soft spoken, she is a model to all, providing teammates with words of encouragement during practices and poolside presence and cheers during competitions,” Navarro said.
Additionally the swimmers’ parents and friends filled the balcony with support as well as Catholic University’s President, John Garvey, and Athletic Director, Sean Sullivan. Messina said that this “high energy support took away from the nervousness” of the meet.
In addition to the 200 butterfly, Messina also swam the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 800-freestyle relay, 400-freestyle relay, and 400-medley relay. She achieved season best times and earned a medal in all of these events.
Messina was grateful for all of the awards that she earned but said with pride that her most rewarding one was her second place medal in the 200 butterfly. This was because it was the event that she put the most work into.
Next year Messina hopes to improve her times and this record even further by focusing more on her training outside of the pool. She plans to implement a weight program similar to the one that she did in high school.
Overall, the Catholic University women’s swim team placed second in the 2016 Landmark Conference championship meet with a total of 677 points. The men’s swim team finished the conference championship meet third with 616 points.