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Polar Bear of the Week: Ella Martin ’24

February 23, 2024

Courtesy of Brian Beard
BACK(STROKE) IN ACTION: Captain of the women’s swim team Ella Martin ’24 capped off the final NESCAC championship of her collegiate career by winning the 50 backstroke and placing second in the 100 backstroke. This is the third year in a row Martin has won the 50 backstroke.

Last weekend, at the 2024 NESCAC Swimming and Diving Championship, Ella Martin ’24 won the 50 backstroke for the third consecutive year with a time of 25.60 seconds. She also placed second in the 100 backstroke.

In comparison to other schools, Bowdoin’s swim team has fewer individual meets. The team practices for five months in anticipation of a few, high-stakes meets. In those intense moments, Martin focused on trusting the training process.

“All you can do is trust that physically you’re in the place that you need to be. The mental part is staying a little bit humble, staying a little bit reserved [and] trusting the training that you’ve had,” Martin said.

For Martin, this season felt different than the last. The team’s energy ran high throughout the season, but the championships for her felt bittersweet.

“It was a mix of my races and picturing every little moment, and just thinking about how this [meet] will be my last,” Martin said.

Martin’s highlight of the season was competing at the NESCAC championship, not only because of her win but because of everyone there supporting her. After a long day of competing, Martin was surprised to hear her mother’s voice as the announcer for the NESCAC winners. Her mother’s voice cracked as she called out her daughter’s name.

“It wasn’t necessarily winning, but it was the pride that I felt in myself and seeing other people so proud of me that was the highlight,” Martin said.

For Martin, swimming is more than just a sport—it brings her clarity. After a long day of academics and meetings, swimming is the best opportunity for her to think.

“People could say it’s boring going back and forth, just looking at the black line the whole time, but it’s like meditation,” Martin said. “[You’re] thinking about your breathing, looking down and just going back and forth.”

Martin’s swimming career has come full circle. Swimming since she was about two years old and having grown up in Maine, she enjoyed the sport so much that her parents enrolled her in swimming lessons here at Bowdoin by age ten. Now, she is captain of the swim team and teaches kids in the same program she was once enrolled in.

Martin expressed gratitude for all of her supporters, particularly Bowdoin Head Coach Brad Burnham. High school left Martin feeling burnt out and contemplating no longer swimming, but according to Martin, Burnham renewed her love for the sport.

“[Burnham] treated me like a human. My coaches in the past felt very factory—you lift, you swim.… I just felt more like a product than a person. With [Burnham] here, he really saw me as a person first and a swimmer second. That was healing,” Martin said.

Throughout her time on the team, Martin has felt consistently supported and loved by her teammates.

“Within our groups, the sprinters are always very energetic. We’re always dancing around and bouncing around and listening to music…. I need people to build me up and cheer me on, and they’ve been really wonderful in that,” Martin said.

She hopes that the community that she has been a part of her whole life will live on even after she graduates this May. During the swim team’s final banquet, Martin shared these sentiments with her teammates.

“During my thank you portion, I said … what a privilege it is to know them, and how when I was younger, the Bowdoin swimmers were my heroes and today they’re still my heroes, which is so true. It’s really been such a privilege to know them and to call them friends,” Martin said.


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