For Tufts senior co-captain Anna Kimura, there was no better way to finish off her collegiate swimming career than to compete at her first national championship. Kimura, the only member of the women’s team to travel to the NCAA Championships, competed in the 200-yard individual medley, the 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard breaststroke over the course of the four-day meet, which began on Wednesday in Indianapolis.
The Bellevue, Wash. native kicked off her meet with the preliminaries of the 200 IM on Wednesday. Kimura swam a time of 2:07.69 to place 30th at the Indiana University Natatorium. While she failed to qualify for the finals, Kimura improved on her seeding of 34th. For Kimura, the best part of her first race was the finish.
“I usually get tired and slow down in the last 50 meters of the 200 IM — the freestyle,” she said. “But this time, I actually hit a good split for the last 50 meters, which I was very excited about.”
Kimura was fortunate to have a day to rest between the 200 IM and her next race, during which she put in a recovery swim and cheered on her teammates on the men’s side.
In Friday’s 100-yard breaststroke preliminaries, Kimura again bested her seeding by placing 26th with a mark of 1:04.76, shaving off over seven-tenths of a second from her 31st-ranked qualifying time of 1:05.47 and setting a new personal record.
“I was very happy with my 100 breast,” she said. “The athlete in the lane next to me was ahead of me, so I thought I was swimming slower than what I wanted and hesitated to look at the scoreboard after touching the wall. But once I saw the scoreboard, I realized I had actually dropped time.”
On the final day of competition, Kimura dove into the pool for the last time in the 200-yard breaststroke. Kimura entered the event, her best, seeded 12th in the 40-person field.
“Going into the race, I was thinking about how it would be my last and how I wanted to swim with no regrets,” she said.
Kimura did just that in the preliminaries, smashing her qualifying time and setting a new personal record with an impressive mark of 2:18.52. The mark also set a new school record, beating Amanda Gottschalk’s (LA ’17) 2016 time of 2:19.05 by over half a second. In the finals, Kimura posted a time of 2:19.28 to place 12th overall and earn honorable mention All-American honors. Tufts coach Adam Hoyt was very impressed with the senior co-captain’s performance on the national stage.
“[Kimura’s] performance at Nationals was unbelievable,” Hoyt said. “To be able to set personal records and improve upon her seeds in two of her races was incredible, not to mention earning honorable mention. I’m proud of her. She works super hard, is a great leader and a great teammate and has done a lot for our program. She took advantage of her final opportunity, and she deserved it.”
With the five points from Kimura’s 12th-place finish, Tufts finished 43rd in the nation. Emory captured the national championship with 603 points, while Kenyon finished second with 500 points, followed by Tufts’ NESCAC rival, Williams, with 412.
“Throughout the meet, my main advice for [Kimura] was to enjoy the experience,” Hoyt said. “Enjoy watching other athletes compete at the highest level and enjoy competing herself.”
Not only was this Kimura’s first time at the NCAA Championships, but it was also her first time competing without the rest of the women’s team.
“Nationals was definitely a different atmosphere. Not only was it more hyped and a level up from any meet I’ve been to before competition-wise, but I also was competing solo,” Kimura said. “But the men’s team was very inclusive and supportive, and my mom and some of my teammates tagged along to cheer me on.”
Although Kimura and Hoyt were both ecstatic with her performance, the occasion was bittersweet.
“It was hard not to have emotions during her 200 breaststroke, knowing it was her last race,” Hoyt said. “We’re going to miss her a lot from a program standpoint, but we’ll remember these moments, and they’ll make us happy when we look back on them.”
Kimura echoed the same sentiment, while noting that she doesn’t know what’s in store for her future.
“It hasn’t hit yet that my swimming career is over,” she said. “We’ll see how it all unfolds.”