MEDFORD - One of nine seniors on the Tufts University swimming & diving roster, Colleen Doolan is the only member of the team who has competed at the NCAA Championships. The Jumbos have had a strong start to the 2018-19 season and Doolan's experience and leadership, as well as her performance in the pool, has been a key factor in the team's early success.
She began her Tufts career by qualifying for the NCAA Championship as a freshman after breaking a program record in the 200 butterfly with a time of 2:03.77 at the New England Small Athletic Conference (NESCAC) meet, earning All-Conference honors. At the NCAA Championship that winter, she earned an honorable mention All-American award in the 200 fly. Doolan earned All-NESCAC honors again as a sophomore in the 200 butterfly and once again qualified for the NCAA Championship where she recorded a career-best time of 53.14 in the 100 freestyle. As a junior, she and three teammates set a new program record in the 400 freestyle relay at the NESCAC Championships. So far this season, she has posted four first-place finishes including as part of the Jumbos' 800 freestyle relay unit that broke a school record clocking a 7:36.47.
Doolan is someone for her teammates to emulate as a student and humanitarian as well. From Northbrook, Ill., she graduated early in December 2018 with a double degree in biology and community health. She has been accepted to Tufts School of Medicine and is currently doing research in the Cardiac ICU at Boston Children's Hospital while finishing her swimming eligibility. A NESCAC All-Academic Team honoree, she has also taken mission trips to Ghana and Haiti during summers to work as a medical intern.
GoTuftsJumbos.com recently caught up with Doolan to talk about all of this ...
What event do you think you have improved the most in over the course of your four years?
CD: I improved most in my sprint freestyle events, the 100 and 50-yard freestyle. These are not my main events, but I race them on relays. The sprint training is very specialized and I have enjoyed getting to train with different groups on the swim team and in a different style than normal.
How much of a change was it adjusting from Illinois to Massachusetts?
CD: For anyone who knows me, I love the Midwest, so moving to the Boston was a huge change. The most difficult part for me is being far from family. I have a twin sister, Patricia, with whom I shared a room for 18 years, and while I've loved my roommates at Tufts I definitely miss my original one. I am fortunate to have a family well-versed in airline flights who have braved multiple snowstorms to come watch me swim at competitions at MIT, NESCAC's, and NCAA's. Being a member of the Tufts Swim Team has provided me a home away from home and I am thankful to my teammates, coaches, and friends' parents who welcomed me into this second family. While it is a big adjustment moving 1,000 miles to school, it has made me grateful for the loving families I have both in Illinois and at Tufts. That said, I will always root for Chicago sports teams.
What are the team's goals going forward?
CD: Our preliminary goal this year is no limits. This team has a lot of potential, stemming from the leadership of the upperclassmen and the extraordinary breadth of talent of our underclassmen. I believe this team is capable of achieving great success this season, both at the conference and national level. We aim to be competitive within the NESCAC conference to improve upon our fourth-place finish last year and qualify women to nationals in both individual and relay events. We had a little glimpse of our future success at the MIT Invitational earlier this November and are working towards topping that performance at our conference meet in February. On a personal note, I have enjoyed this season the most of any of my past years and am excited to end on such a high note with this great group of women.
What has been your favorite meet you've been a part of?
CD: I loved my first NCAA meet in Greensboro, North Carolina my freshman year. Amanda Gottschalk and I represented the women's team after qualifying in our last events at the conference meet. Amanda was an incredible role model as she taught me mental toughness, guided me throughout the extra month of training and week-long competition. It was especially fun to be with her because she and I are both from a northern suburb of Chicago and she hosted me on both my recruiting trip and Jumbo Days visit to Tufts. At NCAA's, I was in awe at the amount of signage and giveaways signifying that we had made it to the highest level of Division III swimming. It was special to be part of an elite group of athletes from all across the US, knowing I was representing the Jumbos.
In what ways has the coaching staff helped you in and out of the pool?
CD: I give credit to all the coaches, Coach Adam, Nancy, Abby, and Joe for helping me succeed in and out of the pool. Beyond their technical expertise, I appreciate their desire to help us excel as people, not just athletes. Coach Adam challenges me to be a vocal leader on the team. Coach Nancy helped me adjust to the move to Boston and wrote my letter of recommendation to Tufts Medical School. Coach Abby brings incredible positive, supportive energy to the women's team and emphasizes our potential to do something great at championships this year. I also love and appreciate her amazing instagram skills which help me stay connected with home. Coach Joe and I share a common interest in public health and he has helped me consider a future in that field and been great to talk to about my medical mission trips work in Ghana and Haiti during the summers. Overall, the coaching staff do an incredible job challenging us 80 athletes to be great in and out of the pool and I am grateful for all their support over the past four years.
Which victory have you been the proudest of in your career?
CD: My sophomore year we opened our season at home against Middlebury, a team we were very close to in talent and who we had lost to for the past eight years in dual meets. The meet came down to the last event, the 400-yard freestyle relay, and I was the anchor. Sophia Lin led off the relay, Alex Good and Hannah Truslow continued to keep us in front, and then it was my turn to finish it for the team. Although I was told my knees were visibly shaking on the block, the cheers from teammates, friends, and family helped bring me home in my fastest split ever to beat Middlebury's "A" relay. Our victory over Middlebury sparked the momentum which we carried throughout the season to truly be competitive within the conference.
If you weren't a collegiate swimmer, what collegiate sport would you want to play and why?
CD: If I did not swim, I would play volleyball. I played in middle school and love the team camaraderie and skill combined with athleticism. I love cheering on the Tufts volleyball team, especially when we bring our recruits to games and the men's team paints their chests.
What is your favorite food?
CD: I have a huge sweet tooth, so I'll eat anything with chocolate. My favorite is the Portillo's Chocolate Cake. Twice a year towards the end of the semester my mom ships me one from Illinois to share with teammates here and it is the highlight of finals period.
If you could meet one Olympic swimmer, who would it be and why?
CD: I would meet Dana Vollmer. She competed on relays in the 2004 Olympics, just missed qualifying for the 2008 Olympics, and came back to win gold in the 2012 Olympics in the 100 butterfly. When I was in the early stage of my swimming career, I remember watching her compete in the same events as I, particularly butterfly. She was another female who swam butterfly and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. She is incredibly talented and I was inspired to keep competing through adversity like she did.
Complied By Athletic Communications Intern Bryan Costello