This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.08/09/2023 07:35 AM
Clare Bransfield is on a mission. After four years out of the pool, the former Guilford High School swimmer is walking onto the swimming and diving team at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. Clare is currently a junior, and said the decision to join the team was one she knew she needed to make.
“My biggest motivator was to try new things and meet some new people,” Clare says. “I met a really good group of kids towards the end of last year, but a lot of them graduated and I really loved swimming and doing it in high school, and I wanted an opportunity to get back into that.”
Being a hard worker has always been in Clare’s nature, and she is ready to carry that work ethic into her new collegiate endeavor, as she hopes to constantly improve her performances. The junior says she’s excited for the future with the team, and for the opportunity to get back in the pool. Clare was on the girls’ swim team at Guilford High, and owns the distinction of being on the first girls’ swim team in school history.
“Interestingly enough, I was actually one of the first girls to dive in the pool at our first meet, which my mom likes to tell people,” Clare says.
After three years on the team, Clare explains that she had high hopes for her senior season, but a disappointment brought her scholastic swim career to a close.
“I never really felt acknowledged by my coach for the effort I was putting in, so I stopped swimming my senior year because I didn’t get captain,” Clare says. “I felt like I was putting in a lot of effort to not get a lot of praise. In high school, that was my mindset and now that I’m a little older, I think less of my ego is in it.”
And Clare’s selfless attitude, maturity and humility is what caught the attention of Saint Michael’s swimming and diving Head Coach Eileen Hall. Hall says she met and spoke with Clare about the junior walking onto the team.
“I didn’t know anything about her until she came into my office, but when I sat down and talked to her and listened to her talk about wanting to try something more challenging and take a risk, and pursue something she loved, those things just resonated with me,” Hall says. “I’m always impressed by people, especially women, who are ready to step out of that routine they’re in and go for something that’s hard.”
Clare says that after talking to Hall, she was even more motivated to get started with the squad.
“(Hall) said, ‘I’m never going to get in the way of a woman who’s committed to working hard and taking risks to try something new.’ That was the confirmation for me to go for it even though it was going to be hard,” says Clare.
Clare has developed the habit of making tough decisions, even when the path forward may be challenging. She says the transition from high school to college in Vermont, 288 miles away from her hometown, was tough. Despite the difficulties of being in a new environment, Clare says she focused on finding solutions to make her time at Saint Michael’s more enjoyable.
“The first year of college was super hard for me, and it only got better when I started involving myself, so I became an orientation leader and I joined student government, and the more I got involved the happier I felt and found a sense of purpose,” Clare says. “So I think towards the end of this past year, I was looking for something new to further that journey of finding who I am.”
And the junior landed on a new team competing at a new, much more difficult level. Hall says the pacing of collegiate swimming and diving is intense, and Clare will need to adjust in order to find success.
“She’s going to need to be up for six practices a week. It’s going to be a lot of training, our meet schedule’s pretty rigorous,” Hall says. “We start right away, the first weekend in October, we have meets every Saturday all the way to Thanksgiving and then we’ll break, and then in January and February as well.”
And Clare, who says she’s already developed a strong relationship with Hall, has had conversations with her coach expressing some preseason concerns.
“The whole summer I’ve been in communication with her, just expressing my worries because even if I don’t swim in the actual meets, there’s an issue of me not being able to keep up in practice,” says Clare. “If I’m too slow, that might affect someone else in the same lane as me, so we talked about that. She told me she really values, most importantly, the good sportsmanship on the team. She stressed to me that even if I’m not the best swimmer, if I’m dedicated at getting better and if I’m good at supporting other people on the team, that’s all she cares about.”
Hall reiterates the importance of being a good, supportive teammate, and explains it’s not all about the stats an athlete puts up in the books.
“We don’t define value in my program 100% on how many points you score, or how many races you win, there’s a lot more to it,” says Hall. “I’m looking for her to focus on her own personal goals, and then what she can bring to the team as far as leadership and commitment and integrity and work ethic.”
Clare has already gotten to work, preparing her body for a season with the Saint Michael’s women’s swimming and diving squad.
“I’ve been swimming, and outside of that I’ve been running a mile once a day to see my times, and when I started off my mile time was 11 minutes and 13 seconds and now I’m at an 8:45 mile, which is awesome for me,” says Clare.
As Clare continues her trek to both discover herself as a college student and be a member of the school’s swim team, she says she would judge this year a success if she can be a great teammate and constantly see her times improve.
“Even if it’s by just a second,” Clare says. “I also think what I’m looking to get out of this is to feel like I have a spot on the team. Even if I’m not the fastest swimmer, for me that’s just being recognized for how I can uplift others and cheer other people on. I don’t need to be in the newspaper for beating a world record. I’m happy being the one on the sideline, cheering my teammates on.”