Notre Dame women's swimming: Reaney now the hunted

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — It must be comforting for Emma Reaney to know life owes her another 12 minutes, 55.66 seconds.

The Notre Dame junior swimmer used up just 2:04.34 of her allotted 15 minutes of fame the other day.

Consider this: No American female swimmer has ever — ever, mind you — completed the 200-yard breaststroke faster than Reaney did Saturday night while winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

“I’m still in shock,” Reaney said Monday. “I try to think about it; all the women swimmers in America, and no one has ever been faster. It’s so weird.”

Irish coach Brian Barnes, a Penn High grad, was thrilled but not surprised by the achievement.

“Reading things around the swim world, they were saying things like ‘stunned’ or ‘jaw-dropping,’” Barnes said. “If you weren’t paying attention, you didn’t see this coming. We saw it coming. What we were dealing with here is an athlete that has the physical and mental skills to set an American record.”

The 5-foot-11 Reaney, who hails from Lawrence, Kan., trimmed 1.51 seconds off her previous best effort to capture the record. Her time eclipsed the previous standard (2:04.48) established by Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson — an Olympic gold medalist as a member of Team USA’s 400 medley relay — in 2012.

Reaney and Larson will likely go head-to-head at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis on March 20-22.

After years of being the hunter, one race has turned Reaney into the hunted.

“There’s already talk going around that’s hyping up that race,” Reaney said. “I’ve never been one to let pressure get to me. I’ve gone against Breeja before. She’s a nice girl. It’s no big deal. She’s just the girl in the lane next to me.”

Put her on the starting blocks with the race set to begin, and the competitor in Reaney kicks in.

“Emma’s a risk-taker,” Barnes said. “She’s not afraid to apply the strategy from a coach and make it into a special moment.”

Barnes downplays any monumental changes that went into Reaney’s record-breaking performance. He boiled it down to a casual conversation the two had at the hotel before heading to the pool.

“I told Emma she was having a fantastic meet,” Barnes said. “We talked about maintaining the technique she was comfortable with (four strokes in the first 25-yard lap, six strokes in each of the seven laps that followed). Just push it at the start.”

“My main focus was to take the first 100 (yards) out in under a minute,” Reaney said. “I figured, ‘If I die, I die.’

“I was pretty far ahead after my first lap. That’s when I thought it could be special, but I didn’t realize I was that fast.”

Barnes said Reaney was 28.0 after two laps and 57.3 midway through the race.

“When she was 1:31 at 150 yards, I thought that this could be ‘a moment,’” Barnes said. “My heart rate was probably higher than hers.”

“I had no idea I was that much faster (than her previous best time, which was set in December),” Reaney said. “It was a lot smoother (than the 2:05.85). That was a head-to-head race with another swimmer; kind of a gritty race.”

“Emma’s success didn’t happen in (Saturday’s) meet,” Barnes said. “Emma’s success happened last summer when she worked so hard; it happened in October and November when she put in the extra time to be so much stronger.”

The Dean’s List student majoring in graphic design, with an economics minor, hasn’t had a lot of time to savor the accomplishment.

“We missed a week of school (for the ACC meet),” she said. “I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Once her studies are behind her, Reaney isn’t shy about her focus on the future.

“My sights are on 2016,” she said, referring to the Olympic Games.

“I don’t think she’s done,” Barnes said. “She’s not afraid of the astronomical goals that she’s set.”

Heck, she still has plenty of fame time left in the bank.


In winning the 200- yard breastroke title at the ACC meet, Notre Dame’s Emma Reaney set an American record. (Photo provided)