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Article Published August 6, 2020

Owen Rood: One of the Best Athletes Branford Has Ever Produced

By Chris Negrini/Zip06.com

Owen Rood was enshrined in the Branford Sports Hall of Fame thanks to his storied career as a swimmer for both the Hornets and at Tufts University. Owen earned the position of senior captain with the Branford boys’ swimming and diving team and also served in that same role as a collegiate swimmer. Owen posted one winning time after another in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, in addition to anchoring various relays at each of his schools. Owen garnered All-American honors for his performances in both his solo events and relays at Tufts.

Being inducted into the Branford Sports Hall of Fame was a thrill for Owen, a 2008 graduate. After spending years away from home, Owen enjoyed coming back to Branford and reacquainting himself with so many pivotal figures in his life. It was especially exciting for Owen to get the hall call from Rich Thompson, who was his swimming coach at Branford.

“I don’t get back to Branford as much as I would like to. It was great to be back with friends, family, former teammates, and coaches,” says Owen, who lives in Chicago. “That individual achievement was great, but I got there because of the support of a lot of people, like family and coaches. It was great to have everybody there. It felt like pieces of a puzzle fitting back together. It was nice to reestablish some of those connections and remember a lot of relationships that were so formative for me.”

Owen tried his hand at other sports as a youngster, but it was all swimming all the time once he got to Branford High School. Owen joined the boys’ swim team as a freshman in 2004 and quickly became a key contributor. Owen made the Class M All-State Team in his first season and then repeated that feat his next three years, proving himself as one of the best swimmers in the both the Southern Connecticut Conference and the state.

Owen was named to the New Haven Register’s All-Area Team in his freshman year, becoming the only freshman to earn the honor that season. He was also named the Register’s All-Area Most Valuable Player during his career at Branford.

In his senior season, Owen served as one of Branford’s captains alongside Eric Sokolosky and Dan Aupi. The Hornets finished second at the Class M State Championship that year, and Owen contributed with his victories in the 50 and 100 freestyles, along with swimming the anchor leg of Branford’s state champion 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay teams. Then at the State Open, Owen claimed titles in the 50 free and both relays.

Owen led Branford through his excellent performances, while raising the bar for both himself and his teammates in their quest for success. Owen learned how to be a leader at Branford and then carried that knowledge into his captaincy at Tufts four years later.

“In swimming, the biggest thing to do as a leader is perform. I tried to do that at Branford and at Tufts,” Owen says. “In other sports, leadership can come in the form of being the glue on the team or being a motivator for those around you. My teammates were focused on swimming, and they were good. We were a big group of friends. We didn’t necessarily need the glue type of leader to bring us together. It gave me the opportunity to step up and be a leader based on performance. I think it worked out well.”

Rich Thompson believes that Owen is one of the greatest athletes and best competitors in the history of Branford sports. However, Thompson adds that no one would ever hear that from Owen himself.

“Owen’s the ultimate competitor. He relished the big meets like states, State Opens, and even the dual-meets, when the competition was there. He swam anchor on a number of our relays. He thrived both in chasing down a swimmer ahead of him or protecting a lead. He never backed down from a challenge,” says Thompson. “Owen’s humble despite all these accomplishments. He was respected for that by his teammates. He led by example and was very approachable. I was fortunate to have kids like Owen, Eric Sokolosky, and Dan Aupi as captains together.”

A member of the National Honor Society at Branford, Owen took that same academic passion to Tufts. Owen continued his swimming career at the collegiate level, once again working his way up to the rank of senior captain. Owen performed well for Tufts and finished his career on top by taking first place in the both 50 and 100 freestyles at the New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship as a senior. Owen qualified to swim at the NCAA Championships all four years at Tufts and also made the All-America Team as a member of the 400 freestyle relay.

Still, even with so many accolades in college, Owen’s most vivid memories of competition come from those big dual-meets at Walsh Intermediate School.

“It’s amazing how you can swim four years in college, and I still look back to a lot of those high school dual-meets against Xavier and Notre Dame. I enjoyed them the most and performed the best in them,” Owen says. “Walsh was packed with my friends and family, and a lot of them would come down to the 400 free relay. They can be super intense, and they were almost always competitive. Still to this day, if I’m struggling, I’ll reach back to those memories.”

Through all of his success, one of Owen’s greatest moments at Tufts was meeting his wife Courtney Adams, who was a senior captain for the school’s women’s swimming team.

“I remember when I first met Courtney at a captains’ practice as a freshman. Over the next year, we were training and competing together. We started dating sophomore year. Things grew from there, until we were both captains,” Owen says. “It was a lot of fun. We were joined at the hip. I’m appreciative of and moved by the fact that swimming has been a part of the biggest moments in my life. Thinking about diving in when I was seven, and then at 21—I graduated with my future wife, who I met through swimming. I’ve just had an amazing journey with the sport.”

Owen and Courtney were both accepted into the Teach for America program. Owen taught high school physical education, while Courtney taught 8th-grade math. The couple lives in Chicago, where Owen recently finished his master’s degree in public policy at the University of Chicago, and are hoping to move to the Connecticut shoreline to raise a family.

Owen knows that his Branford roots are a huge part of what has made him successful in life.

“Individual achievements don’t happen without a lot of a good people around you. I was really lucky to exist in this wonderful ecology of parents, coaches, teammates, and friends. That was a defining feature of my childhood,” Owen says. “That says something about Branford. I’m thankful to have had that experience. I look forward to raising my family in similar community. I can’t think of a better way to grow up.”