by Kimberly Pena
Blue Devils Swim Team’s own Maddy Garber qualified for this year’s U.S. Olympic swim trials for the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke.
The 20-year-old junior was CCSU’s lone representative at the summer trials that were held in Omaha, Nebraska.
She recalls the experience as something hard to wrap her head around as she was surrounded by many great Olympians including Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. Garber remembers the intensity in the room during the meet.
“It was very exciting,” says Garber. “It was nerve-wracking, when I first got there we went and saw the pool and it was just scary like with all the stands and the light and everything with the pool. I’ve never been in that atmosphere, obviously. So it was cool to be at that level, too.”
Garber placed 75th in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:11.75 and 88th in the 200-meter with a time of 02:36.53.
For Garber, to be able to compete and surround herself with the greatest swimmers in the country, it was a huge accomplishment. She has been in love with the sport of swimming since she was six years old and remembers being in the water as much as she could.
“My parents really didn’t force me to do it,” says Garber. “I like just always enjoyed going to practice and just like being in a pool whenever I could. I’ve just been always around water and just like had a love for it.”
However, even with a passion for swimming, she understood that a great coach is pivotal in her quest for success. CCSU’s Head Swim Coach Bill Ball was just that man to her.
“I have a great coach that motivates me,” said Garber. “If you need something, he’ll do it, like he’s awesome and very supportive with everything. He’s obviously going to push us a little harder than we want to sometimes, but that just makes us better in the end. I think the whole team could speak to that, if he wasn’t here we wouldn’t be where we are.”
Coach Ball has coached CCSU’s swim team for the past decade, leading the team to win 70 individual events and 19 team relays, more than any other Northeast Conference program, according to the Central Connecticut State University sports website.
For him, it was exciting to see how well the swimming program has fared by having Garber compete in the U.S Olympic trials.
“I was pretty excited. It’s a great accomplishment for the program as well as for Maddy,” said Coach Ball. “I mean, it’s the pinnacle of our sport, other than the Olympics.”
He credits good communication between the two as what pushed Garber into becoming the best swimmer that she could be.
“I think we get each other and we communicate really really well,” said Ball. “As difficult as things could be in this sport and how difficult it could be at times and how overtiring and rundown everybody could get, we still communicate very well.”
Their relationship as coach and player has led Garber to break several CCSU records. As a rookie, Garber broke the North East Conference, CCSU and freshman record in the 200-meter breaststroke. She has also earned the NEC Rookie of the Meet award at the NEC Championships and was a part of the 400-yard medley relay that set the school record.
Even after her numerous accomplishments, Garber still wants to improve.
“This year, I want to improve my times in the dual meet, I definitely want to get faster there,” said Garber. “Everybody’s goal is to get faster obviously; I just want to keep getting faster.”
Garber still wants swimming to be a part of her life after her time here at Central and hopefully qualify once again for the 2020 U.S Olympic swim trials, but hopefully next time with a few of her swimming buddies from CCSU.
“A few of the girls on this team have the potential to make it too,” said Garber. “There was a lot last year that were very close, they keep training, I think I can train with them. I don’t think I can give it (swimming) up right away, I’ve been with it my whole life.”
Coach Ball believes Garber has the potential to win three events at NEC to add onto her list of accomplishments here at Central. The first swim meets for Garber and the rest of the swim team will be on October 14 at St. Bonaventure in New York.