The 4X200 free relay members—Joanna Curry, Chenoa Devine, Emma Barksdale and senior Claire Pinson—pose with their fourth-place medals. (Photo courtesy of Pinson)

Q&A: Senior swimmer catches Princeton’s eye, makes waves at Junior Nationals

Senior swimmer Claire Pinson has been invited to attend a Princeton University recruit trip in September.  She recently returned from Irvine, Calif., where she competed at Junior Nationals.


Q: How did you react to the Princeton invitation?

A: I’ve been talking with the Princeton coach for a very long time. So when she extended the invitation to me, obviously, I was ecstatic. I’ve been working on improving my times, and I took a lot of testing to make sure that my scores were where they needed to be and  to make sure I was the best candidate possible.  I was very, very excited, but part of me knew it was coming, just from the reactions that I’d been getting from the Princeton coach.


Q: Tell me a little bit about how your family reacted.

A: My parents were very excited, because at Junior Nationals, the swimmers aren’t allowed to talk to college coaches until after they’ve swum all their events. The unfortunate part about it was that I was basically in the last event, which ended at 8:30 p.m. By that time, I’d already emailed the Princeton coach, and she told me she wouldn’t be able to meet with me after my last race. My parents were able to talk to her in the stands for an hour, something ridiculous like that. They’re ecstatic. I mean, it’s Princeton.


Q: What are you most looking forward to about the trip?

A: Getting to know the team and having a lot of fun, because they plan all these activities, and you get to see  a slice of life at college. This is an opportunity to see how you fit in with the team, because that’s the most important thing once you get to this point with a college.


Q: How does it feel to be considered by the Princeton swim team?

A: When I started this process, I was extremely fortunate that the Ivy schools were in my range of swimming times. Ultimately, when I graduate from college, I probably won’t be swimming anymore. I consider swimming my ticket into the college, and it’s my way to establish myself in the college  community.  The degree that I’m going to get at this outstanding college, wherever I go, is my ticket out.

Senior Claire Pinson (second row, blonde hair) poses with her teammates at Junior Nationals. (Photo courtesy of Pinson)

Q: How was your performance at Juniors?

A: I swam in three relays.  Every single relay I was in, except for one, dropped time (meaning the relay time got faster). In the relay that we didn’t drop time in, we only added 0.01 seconds. My time trials were fantastic.  I dropped in everything single that I swam at the meet, which is very rare.  In the 4×200 freestyle relay, we placed fourth in the entire meet. We all got medals, and we were in the podium ceremony. Currently, we are the fastest 15-16 (age) 4×200 relay in the whole nation. By, like, 4 seconds. That is a lot in swimming time. My relay that placed fourth was the first group of people to ever be on the podium at Junior Nationals from our team. That was a huge honor.


Q: How did you mentally prepare yourself?

A: There was a lot of pressure because before the meet, my 200 freestyle was 0.09 seconds slower than the qualifying time for the meet, so I was absolutely devastated. To miss a qualifying time by that much is terrible. I went into the meet a little freaked out because this was (my) last chance to get the qualifying times that (I wanted) during the season.

About a week before the meet, I decided I was going to spend just one day worrying about it and stressing about it and freaking out, and after that, I was just going to have fun.

I brought a rainbow tutu to the meet. I was on the side of the deck in my tutu cheering for my teammates who were swimming individual events. I was concentrated on the team, not on me as an individual.  That’s how I took the stress off myself.


Q: What was the vibe like at Juniors?

A: Junior Nationals is 18 and under only. This week at the same pool, Nationals is going on, where Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin are swimming. The next step up for swimmers who swim at Junior Nationals and Nationals is Olympic Trials. They have spectator stands by the poolside.  It’s on TV.  It’s tweeted about; (it’s) Facebooked about.


Q: So what did you do in your free time?

A: My summer reading! Mainly, the number-one goal for us during high-level meets in our free time is to sleep, stay off our feet, and just not stress. My roommate and I took ice baths. You buy bags of ice, you dump ‘em in the bathtub, and you fill it up a little with water, and you sit there in misery for 15 minutes.


Q: What will you remember most about this meet?

A: Making the podium, for sure, number one.  Number two, my 200 individual medley time trial.  The Harvard coach was sitting in the stand with my parents and videotaped my race where I dropped 5 seconds off my time and qualified for Junior Nationals. That is crazy.  My fingers are crossed because there is a possibility that I will also be taking a recruiting trip to Harvard as well as Princeton. I cannot believe it.


Q: What’s next for you?

A: I’m taking a break for this week.  I’m going to start strength training and doing running and cardio and just getting back in shape the week after that. Then I’m back in the pool.

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