McDonald off to Middlebury
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. If Emily McDonald’s collegiate career is half as successful as the years leading up to it, the 2007 Colorado Rocky Mountain School graduate is in for one heck of a ride.A lifelong Sopris Barracuda swimmer, McDonald notched two All-American honors, one as a swimmer and one as a student. In 2006, her junior year, McDonald captured two state titles in the Class 4A state meet by winning the 50- and 100-yard freestyle for Glenwood Sprigs High School. The two gold medals McDonald brought in were the first in GSHS girls swimming history.Starting in September, McDonald will test the waters at Middlebury College, a NCAA Division III liberal arts school in Vermont. Though Middlebury only has about 2,300 students, the swim squad has more than 60 swimmers and divers. It will be opposite of the small teams for which McDonald has swum for her entire life.
“It’s going to be weird. And we have a nice pool (The Natatorium – an Olympic-size swimming pool with a spectator area that can hold approximately 1,200 individuals), which is a big change from the Hot Springs (where the Barracudas practiced before moving to the Glenwood Springs Community Center Pool),” McDonald said.McDonald’s prep career was cut short with a shoulder injury during her senior year. After qualifying for state, she decided not to swim at state and was forced to rest her shoulder, which had a partially torn rotator cuff and which dislocated with every stroke she took. McDonald, who’s suffered from shoulder problems for a few years, swam through the pain, winning the 100 butterfly and chipping in for a 400 freestyle relay win to help the Demons take third in the Western Slope Regional Championship Meet.
During the painful process, McDonald looked up to the same role model she has since she was 15 – U.S. Olympic swimmer and five-time medalist Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin’s inspiration to McDonald dates back to a specific event, when she learned Coughlin had been inflicted with shoulder troubles.”When I was 15, I had won state the past year in Grand Junction for the first time, but I was really nervous because I had just aged up in 15 and over. There were 25-year olds in my heat. I was seeded first and I was really nervous. And Howard Jay just handed me an article about Natalie. I sat and I read it and it just calmed me down and I ended up winning.”Ever since, McDonald has been a fan of Coughlin, who suffered a shoulder injury in 1999. Coughlin worked through the injury and went on to win 12 NCAA titles. She was named NCAA swimmer of the year three times and become a two-time Olympic gold medalist and 50 and 100 backstroke world record holder.While McDonald’s first-year collegiate goals aren’t set as high as Coughlin’s accomplishments, they are aggressive.”I want to stay healthy primarily and maybe take down some records,” the 18-year-old said.While McDonald has been taking a break from swimming and resting her shoulder since the end of the prep season in February, it doesn’t mean she’s been away from the water. McDonald is currently serving as an assistant coach for the Barracudas – a position she enjoys.”I love it. It is so much fun,” McDonald said. “Just to see how the kids progress and you can mold them into what you want them to be.”
Coaching is also a chance for McDonald to spend time with Kirsten Gray, a former Barracuda assistant who is now in the head coaching role. “Kirsten was my age-group coach,” McDonald said. “She taught me how to swim, so it’s fun to come full circle and coach with her.”McDonald also spends time in the water as a first-year raft guide for Blue Sky.”I like it a lot,” she said. “It’s difficult sometimes being the rookie, but it’s fun.”McDonald also said that rafting is helping her shoulder and is almost another form of rehabilitation.”When I row backwards, it’s the opposite motion, so it is actually really good for it,” she said. “It’s strengthening the muscles that hold it in place.”After coaching Barracuda practice this week, McDonald jumped in the pool for a few laps – her first since the winter season.
“I did get in a little bit this week just to kind of ease myself back into it, but not tear anything again,” she said.As far as academics go at Middlebury, McDonald hasn’t picked a major yet. She is planning on taking a first-year seminar, studio art and sociology class, as well as a another class she is especially excited about.”I am taking beginning Arabic in the fall. I really want to learn Hindi, and I think they are kind of related. It will be really useful and interesting.”McDonald, who competed on CRMS’ telemark skiing team, is also planning on continuing to hit the slopes in Vermont.”There’s a tele team at Middlebury that I want to be a part of – keep the tradition alive,” she said.
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