Feb. 26, 2015
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The best part of Becky Stoughton’s Big Ten Conference title in the 1,650-yard freestyle was her ability to finally swim pain free.
“As amazing as winning was, the best part was because of last year when I was unable to finish one of my races,” said Stoughton, a senior from Peoria, Illinois. “This year I was able to finish two 200-yard butterfly races and a mile in between with no pain.
“Having that recovery, I have so many people to thank. That was the main success of the meet.”
Stoughton burst onto the scene for the University of Iowa women’s swimming and diving team as a freshman, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and garnering honorable mention All-America honor in the 1,650 free.
Then the injuries arose. Stoughton wasn’t the same swimmer as a sophomore or junior with shoulder injuries derailing her hopes. She was healthy heading into her final Big Ten Championships and was hoping she could challenge her career-bests.
“As amazing as winning was, the best part was because of last year when I was unable to finish one of my races,” said Stoughton, a senior from Peoria, Illinois. “This year I was able to finish two 200-yard butterfly races and a mile in between with no pain. Having that recovery, I have so many people to thank. That was the main success of the meet.”
UI senior Becky Stoughton
“I was 19 when I swam those times,” said Stoughton. “It feels like forever ago… I was still a teenager. I was thinking about it and I put in so much training and effort, changed my diet, and a lot about me to get to this point and beat those times. Was I 100 percent sure I could challenge those times? No, but I was going to go for it.”
Competing in the second-fastest heat, Stoughton achieved her goal. She broke the 16-minute mile mark for the first time in her career, touching out in 15:57.43 after 66 lengths of the pool. She broke her school record by nearly six seconds.
“I finished the race, got my best time, and I was crying, everyone was crying,” said Stoughton. “It was great.”
Then she had to wait. She thought her time would position her for a respectable top-five Big Ten finish. She was seeded 10th, so she had to sit and watch the final heat more than an hour after she finished her race.
“I was so nervous when (the finals) were being swam, I was hiding in the bathroom,” said Stoughton. “I took one of the freshmen in there to talk with me because I couldn’t watch.”
With 200 yards remaining, Stoughton’s roommate — fellow senior Hannah Maher — came to find her.
“Hannah came in with tears in her eyes,” explained Stoughton. “She was like ‘Becky, you have to come out here. You’re about to win Big Tens.’ I started crying all over again.
“I wanted it so bad after my freshman year, and my sophomore and junior year I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. To have it actually come true, you never know how you’re going to get there. It blew my mind.”
Stoughton’s title gives the Iowa program its first Big Ten champion in 14 years when Melissa Loehndorf won the 200 butterfly title in 2001.
“She has battled the last two years,” said UI head coach Marc Long. “To go through that adversity and come back senior year and not only excel, but surpass, is remarkable. It’s a testament to her and her dedication, and it’s awesome for the program.
“We’re happy and proud of her, but she’s not done yet.”
Stoughton, who has posted NCAA “B” qualifying times in the 200, 500, and 1,650-yard freestyle and 200-butterfly, is awaiting word on her event schedule for the 2015 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships, which will be held from March 19-21 in Greensboro, North Carolina.