Phillip Ends Collegiate Swimming Transition With Record Setting Spree

Elihah Phillip ended her season with a Rutgers School record PHOTO: David R. Harmantas

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway

Elinah Phillip added the BVI’s first collegiate swimmer to her list of firsts, as a Rutgers freshman. Along the way, she has experienced several transitions—moving from England to the USA, different cultures and educational systems and in her specialty, swimming in different length pools. In the process, she ended her first Big 10 Conference Championships by breaking the 14- year old Rutgers 50y free school record, then teamed with two fellow freshmen and a sophomore to wipe out the 13-year old 200y free relay record and the three year old 400y relay record.  

“It was a big transition, not just in sport but in academics and the culture is very different to the UK so that I had to get used to,” Phillip, a pre dentistry major with an art major and business minor told Island Sun Sports. “For swimming, I think the biggest adjustment for me was in training, because of a different coach and also the difference in the length of the pool—I had to physically adjust to that. Academically, the educational system is different so I had to figure out what my plan was for the next four years studying. Culturally, the thing that stood out was getting used to the accent.”

Reflecting on her first collegiate competition season that began in October, Phillip said in the beginning it was difficult to know where she really was competitively. There was a big difference in pool lengths and her times were quicker because she was swimming yards and not meters. She described her early season races as being ‘messy’ and had to adapt and find a way to be as fast as she knew she could be, because she didn’t have as much yardage to build speed. 

“You didn’t know how slow or fast you were actually going until you got used to the feel of swimming in a short course yards pool, but as time went on, I got used to it and developed a good feeling and an enjoyable experience,” she explained. “Swimming yards is about two or three meters shorter than a short course meter pool, so the wall does come a lot quicker. It was something I had to be aware of, especially for me doing a sprint, the wall is coming faster in the race so you have to think quickly so and can cost and don’t run into it.”

The shorter pool she noted is definitely better for sprinters and it was a different kind of swimming.

She said that her first Big 10 Conference Championships was an exciting meet, had a lot of energy and it was fun. 

“It was definitely long. It lasted four days,” she reflected. “Somehow, I started to feel tired on the last day but we kept our performances to a high level.”

When she swam 22.41 seconds in the 50 free to break Rutgers’ 14-year old school record, Phillip said she wasn’t thinking about a record and was surprised as she was swimming as fast as she could after 22.48 in the morning prelims. 

“I had a feeling I could get it because you usually swim faster in the afternoon,” she said, noting that along with her two fellow freshman and a sophomore, they worked really hard to get the 200 and 400 records in times of 1:30.33 and 3:18.06 respectively. “The one I enjoyed the most was the 400 yards freestyle relay, because that’s probably the toughest relay and we beat the record by more than a second.”

From her first season, Phillip said she has gained a lot of knowledge which can only be useful going forward. For many incoming freshmen coming from Europe who are accustomed to swimming meters and she’s more than happy to share what she has learned with them.