When senior swimmer Alison Bartlett came to Keene State College, she didn’t expect to be a four-time Little East Conference Champion, or break multiple school records. She didn’t expect to compete on a national level or inspire her teammates to swim faster. She didn’t even expect to swim for KSC.
Her expectations were way off.
Bartlett, who started swimming when she was eight and continued until she graduated high school, she said that joining the swim team at KSC wasn’t something she considered. However, Bartlett decided to walk onto the team, expecting friendly competition and a way to stay in shape. She quickly realized it was far more intense than she thought it would be. “I knew nothing about the team. I knew nothing about how good they were,” Bartlett said, “I didn’t know that it was a very competitive sport here and I sort of just jumped into it blind and it turned out to be the best decision of my life.”
Still, she was able to thrive from her first jump off the block as she won her first race as an Owl. From there, she said she wanted to keep improving and reaching short term goals along the way. Now, just four short seasons later, Bartlett has racked up four LEC medals, three school records (50, 100, 200 Free), broke a 27-year old pool record set by eight-time gold medalist Jenny Thompson and qualified for two NCAA championship meets, just to name a few of her accolades during her time on the team.
Bartlett attributed much of her success to making the most out of every practice.
“Obviously it’s the training. I make it a goal to just keep working harder and harder, and when I get tough practices thrown at me I try to use them to my advantage and not crumble,” Bartlett said.
Teammate-turned-coach Diana Pimer said that Bartlett has improved much more and has become a much more versatile swimmer than the alumni thought she would over the past season, noting tough training regimens and Bartlett’s improvement in her abilities to swim very well in a number of different freestyle events.
“She has exceeded any and all of my expectations,” Pimer said, “We definitely pushed her limits this year.”
Bartlett said that she wants her hard work to rub off after she graduates.
“I just hope that people take it from me that if you work hard enough, you can achieve whatever you want,” Bartlett said
Of course, swimmers come and go no matter how good they are, but, according to Pimer, some still have influence after they leave.
“The very small upside to those people leaving is that they are going to have an effect on the team for at least four more years and they inspired three classes of swimmers. So that’s going to help the team in the long run and I think Ali definitely falls under that category of one of those swimmers,” Pimer said.
According to first-year freestyler Kylee Russell, Pimer couldn’t be more right.
“I think she’s left a really big mark, set some high standards and I think next year, not having her is going to be a big adjustment, but it gives us something to work for because we’re going to want to break her goals and go as fast as she [does],” Russell said, “I think she’s a huge inspiration and a role model and I think she’s going to do really good at NCAAs.”
First-year Interim head coach Chris Woolridge said that he has enjoyed working with Ali and watching her achieve so much in her last campaign as an Owl.
“It’s nice to see those two things come together where someone is working hard and you enjoy working with [them] because they’re motivated,” Woolridge said.
Woolridge said that often star swimmers like Bartlett are an unexpected surprise.
“We didn’t know she was going to be what she is,” Woolridge said.
According to Bartlett, neither did she.
“If I was a freshman again and someone told me I would’ve been where I am today, [there’s] no chance I would believe that,” she said.
The NCAA meet will take place on March 16 to 19. Until then, Bartlett will still be training in the Spaulding Gym, just like she has been for the last four years.
Jacob Barrett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org