Cougar of the Week: Amanda Brackett

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Cougar of the Week: Amanda Brackett

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Cougar of the week by Jenny Rubin

Photo: Jenny Rubin

Amanda Brackett’s (‘15) final season with the women’s swimming & diving team is almost over. She has posted personal records this year alone in the 500 meter event. Brackett started as a lifeguard, then became team manager, and finally became a swimmer. She sat down with The Scarlet to talk about her last season, the Puerto Rico trip, and her grueling schedule. 

Scarlet: How has the season been for you?

Brackett: This season has been amazing in so many ways. I have been swimming faster than I ever have in season, and the team has a bond this year that was missing the past couple seasons. That bond has pushed us all to work a lot harder in the pool.

Scarlet: I know that the swim team recently had a training trip in Puerto Rico. Can you give some insight into what the training trip was like? How hard was it? What were some of the obstacles you had to face?

Brackett: The training trip is my favorite time of the year. Everybody always makes fun of the number of times I say, “I love Puerto Rico!” or “I’m just so happy right now!” while we are there, but it really is unlike anything you will ever do, because it is simultaneously the most fun and most painful experience. You are exhausted, and your whole body hurts, but you are in Puerto Rico, so you just have to smile! Suffering through the early mornings, long practices, and complete exhaustion really brings the team together, and it is an amazing thing to experience. Coach tells us every year the whole point is “to completely break your body down,” and he always achieves that goal [laughs]. This year, we swam over 62,000 meters which is about 42 miles over the nine days we were in Puerto Rico, plus even more training at Clark over break. Probably the biggest obstacle for me was trying to stay in the moment and not be sad about it being my last trip.

Scarlet: I know this year there are a lot of first-years on the team. What is that like since there are not as many sophomores and juniors?

Brackett: Being a small team this year caused the seniors and the first-years to bond much more than they typically do, which has been awesome.

Scarlet: As a fifth-year, do you find it hard to identify with the Clark community and the team?

Brackett: I didn’t find it hard to identify with the team this year, but outside swimming I don’t have much of a connection to the Clark community anymore.  

Scarlet: Head Coach Paul E. Phillips has been part of the Swimming & Diving Program at Clark for close to two decades. As someone who has been with him for five years, is there any insight you can provide into his training and philosophy?

Brackett: Oh man, that’s a hard question [laughs]. In terms of training he does everything for a reason, and that reason is usually a pretty good one so just trust him. He also really emphasizes the relationships we create on the team and the bond that is created between teammates. We consider the team our family, and we treat each other like family and that whole philosophy comes from Coach. He really instills in the team a sense of community, belonging, and responsibility to one another that I’ve never experienced on any other team, and it is what has made swimming the most significant part of my college experience.  

Scarlet: Coach Phillips is also known for his strict discipline on academics. In past years, the swimming and diving teams have posted some of the highest GPAs in the nation among swimmers and divers. How does that make you feel?

Brackett: Coach has always been great with academics, and recognizes that we can’t be athletes if we aren’t students first. Strong academics has always just been part of the culture on the team. We go to the library together, help each other with our work, and always push each other to do the best we can in whatever we are doing. Also, a significant portion of our team is majoring in science or math, so we are taking the hardest classes and still putting up some of the best team GPAs at Clark, in the conference, and in the nation, which is awesome and I’m really proud to be a part of it.

Scarlet: I know swimming and diving are two different sports, but they operate as one. Do you find it difficult for the two teams to coexist together?

Brackett: I don’t think it’s difficult for them to coexist, but sometimes it can be difficult to get the two groups to be cohesive. We don’t practice together so we also miss out on a lot of the bonding. The team really bonds when we suffer together in practice and unfortunately we don’t get to experience that with the divers. The only time we get to see the divers do their thing is at meets, which is really impressive, but we miss the hardest part of diving when we only see them compete. While learning new dives, they smack, a lot sometimes, but they just get right back up and do it again. It takes mental toughness, and we miss all those painful steps to getting to the beautiful dives we see at meets.

Scarlet: Is there anyone on the team who you feel has shown a lot of progress this year?

Brackett: Literally everyone [laughs]. We have done a lot more specialty training in the pool this year and it really shows. People have been swimming super fast and it’s awesome. The divers have also been killing it this year. Tyler Terriault (‘16), switched from swimming to diving this year, and watching his diving progress has been super cool.

Scarlet: NEWMACs are right around the corner. Since it is your last Championship, is there anything you are looking forward to?

Brackett: I’m really looking forward to having Championships at MIT again because we only swim there at Championships, and it makes it more special than just swimming at WPI where we swim at least three times a year. I am also looking forward to watching everybody swim. Everybody has worked so hard this year, and people have been putting up season best times within the past couple weeks, so it should be a great weekend. I’m not looking forward to it being over, though. I’m not ready to be done.

The Clark Invitational will take place on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 1 p.m. in the Kneller Athletic Center. Thanks for the interview,  Amanda!