In recent Bowdoin women's swim meets, one athlete has left all the competition in her wake. Allen Garner '12 is just getting into the peak of her season, and no challenge has proven too great.
At last weekend's home meet against Colby, Garner won three individual events—setting season bests in each—in addition to a first-place finish in the 200-yard medley relay. She won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:01.70, the 200-yard backstroke in 2:13.06, the 200 IM in 2:14.24 and the relay in 1:51.27 (with Caitlin Callahan '11, Christine Rholl '14 and Allison Palmer '11).
Garner has been comfortable swimming from a young age. She frequently swam in her grandfather's pool and has been competing since the age of nine.
"My parents probably just wanted me to exercise," she said. "Plus my mom swam growing up and she knew it was a great sport to get into."
Once Garner got to high school, swimming became nearly a full-time job. Her school had neither a pool nor a swim team, so she swam on a local school's club team.
"I pretty much sold my soul to swimming," she said. "In high school it took up a lot of time and it was a very different approach than it is here. It was tons of yardage without much attention to detail, but I kept with it because I was in so far that it was too late to stop. I probably swam a lot more in high school than I do here, yet I do even better now."
Though she looked at Division-I schools in addition to D-III ones, she ultimately chose Bowdoin largely based on the swim program and coach Brad Burnham.
"I wanted somewhere I could contribute to the program without having to give my entire life to swimming," she said, "and [I] definitely found exactly what I wanted."
Once she got to Bowdoin, she liked how she was able to identify herself not solely as a swimmer and how she could better design her athletic life.
"Swimming is different from other sports in that what you put into it is what you will get out of it," she said, "and it includes both individual races and team relays so you get the best of both worlds."
"The sport is a lot about pain," she continued, "but I could never top the feeling of winning. The endorphins from athletics are something you can't beat."
Throughout high school and during her first year at Bowdoin, Garner was best at mid-distance freestyle events. However, her sophomore year at Bowdoin, she specialized in backstroke, and set a new school record in the 50-yard race with a time of 28.16 seconds.
In addition, she currently holds school records in the 400-yard and 800-yard free relays.
"All of my strokes have definitely improved since being here, and I can swim a wider range of events than I did in high school," she said.
In last weekend's Colby meet, the first and only home meet of the season, Bowdoin won by a score of 178-118. The unique Maine rivalry created a special atmosphere at the pool, with a number of students and parents gathered in support of the Bowdoin team.
"Though I would like to say that the Colby meet was the same as any other one, it had a stronger emotional component because it was them and it's the meet we really gear up for every year," said Garner. "It's a good, intense rivalry, the two teams are very competitive, and everybody swam really well."
With a nice boost of morale from the recent win, Garner's hope is that the Polar Bears beat Colby and Bates at the NESCAC Championships at Williams next weekend and place high overall in the conference. As an individual, she wants to get new personal records in her races, and said, "making D-III Nationals would be sweet."
"This season we trained harder than I had ever trained before here," she added, "so I think we should be at our best come championship time."
Bowdoin beat Bates and Colby last year to win the CBB for the first time in almost a decade. However, Bates edged out the Polar Bears in their regular-season matchup this year in Lewiston.
Having matured as an athlete, Garner has noticed a difference in her transition from underclassman to upperclassman this year. Many of her classmates were abroad in the fall, so she was one of the few juniors training with the team in pre-season workouts.
"I went into the fall thinking I would be swimming and lifting all the time," she said, "but it didn't exactly end up being that much different from what I usually do."
"I have a love-hate relationship with swimming," she continued, "and as much as I dislike waking up at 6 a.m. twice a week during the season, I love beating teams like Colby."