Paige daCosta: Swimming in Place
Just weeks before Cornell sent students home, freshman stand-out Paige daCosta was swimming in the Ivy League Championships, helping lead the Big Red to a sixth-place finish. He became the first Cornell swimmer to win the 100 yard-backstroke, doing so with a record-setting time of 46.52 seconds. daCosta also took 2nd in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard backstroke, as well as competing on three relays. For daCosta, the meet was a highlight of the season because it “showed all of our work paid off and was a great moment for us as a team.” With so many improvements from last year, things couldn’t have been going much better for the team. And then, in the blink of any eye, everything fell apart.
Pools shut down, along with the rest of the world, and daCosta found himself scrambling for ways to continue training. He made do with what he had, hopping in a small backyard pool with a resistance band tied around his waist to allow him to swim in place. He began biking and running more, as well as using a borrowed lift apparatus to complement his bungee-cord pool workouts. daCosta lamented, “It’s hard to be optimistic and focus on the future when it looks like there might not be a future for sports, but we did all that we could as a team.” Strength coach Chris Walborn has been vital to maintaining a sense of normalcy in training by offering a variety of resources for lifts, working around the equipment that athletes, like daCosta, have at home. Head Coach Wes Newman and Assistant Coach Jake Lichter discussed his training and provided advice to continue improving. The coaching staff has also helped develop team chemistry by facilitating fun activities like Bingo and trivia Zooms with alumni. Additionally, daCosta is grateful for the openness with which the coaching staff has approached discussions of current events. He’s been able to adapt to the circumstances, and he will have to continue to get creative as many competition-sized pools still have limited capacity.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, daCosta has been able to make the best of it. Being home and having more time on his hands, he was able to find a job at Trader Joe’s and started exploring his interest in riding motorcycles. daCosta hails from Livermore, CA in the Bay Area, so he enjoys hitting the coast on his motorcycle and going places like San Francisco.
Having just finished his freshman year, daCosta hopefully has a lot more swimming to do, and he certainly has a bright future. Reflecting on the past year, he said one of his favorite team memories was their trip to Akron, Ohio. He felt it was an amazing experience because, despite being a midseason meet, they “still swam [their] hearts out to secure first as a men’s team.” He had a stellar first season and reflected on it, saying, “The biggest thing that helped me this season was the coaches, Wes and Jake, I put a lot of faith in them and they in turn put a lot of faith in me.” He also is grateful for such a supportive group of teammates who contributed to a smooth transition. Looking to the future, he hopes to keep improving, saying his next goals would be to qualify for NCAAs and to improve on the team’s sixth place finish at Ivy’s in the upcoming season.
DaCosta expressed that the future of swimming – like all sports – looks uncertain. Competitions involve a large number of people by nature, so our societal values will be tested and we will have to sort out our priorities. The news that fall sports are cancelled is a bit concerning, especially for a sport that’s essentially year-round, like swimming. To spectators, sports provide important entertainment, but, as daCosta said, for now we all need to do our part by wearing masks and following protocols so we can return to some semblance of normalcy.