A change of scenery has led to a breakthrough in the athletic career of Fighting Scots swimmer Cally Tate.
After a year at another school, the sophomore made what she called “a last-minute decision” to transfer, returning to her hometown to study and swim at Monmouth College for coach Jake Dacus.
And when Tate says “last minute,” she really means it.
“My time at Illinois Wesleyan was a good learning experience, but I decided I couldn’t return for three more years,” she said. “I met with Coach Dacus and the team, and I clicked better with the team than I expected to. And I obviously knew the campus from growing up here. It was all very last minute. By the time I decided, I was three days late for the start of the fall semester.”
When it comes to swimming, “best minute” is a phrase that could be used to describe one of the many highlights of Tate’s debut season with the Scots. Since her days as a swimmer for Monmouth-Roseville High School, Tate has had her sights set on breaking the one-minute barrier in the 100-yard backstroke. And the sophomore is not alone – every talented Scot in the program’s 20-year history has eyed that number, but none have achieved it.
Tate finally accomplished the elusive feat as part of an outstanding string of performances at the Midseason Championships, hosted by Beloit College the first weekend in December. She set the new school record in the prelims with a time of 59.37, then followed that up in the final with a first-place swim of 59.57.
“That’s been something I’ve focused on since at least my freshman year of high school,” she said.
But Tate wasn’t done breaking school records or posting first-place finishes. She also set the new standard in the 50- and 200-yard backstroke with times of 27.75 and 2:09.80, respectively, winning both events, and she touched first in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle.
“That was one of the most exciting meets of my life,” she said. “Every time I’d look up at the scoreboard to see my time, I was like in shock. Some of those times, you don’t think it’s possible until it happens.”
Switching it up
Which begs the question, just how did those times happen? Both Tate and her coach supplied answers.
“Training for me this year has been really different,” said Tate. “At Illinois Wesleyan, the coach really focused on yardage – just how many yards you can get in during practice. I wasn’t dropping time that way. It wasn’t working for me.”
In short, it was wearing her down, and injuries that included a sprained ankle and tendonitis “pretty much left me with just one good leg,” she said.
At Monmouth, Dacus’s workouts have focused more on speed and, said Tate, “on doing things right.”
Talent plus hard work
And Dacus said the standout sophomore is definitely doing things right in practice.
“Cally’s fantastic,” he said. “She’s an extremely talented swimmer who works incredibly hard. And she’s the most humble person on the team. That’s why everybody loves her. When you combine that kind of talent with what a hard worker she is, school records are bound to happen.”
Both Tate and Dacus were asked what else could happen during this swim season, which will reach its second-half peak Feb. 16-18 at the Midwest Conference championships at Grinnell College.
“I’m hoping to get on the podium in my top three events, which means making the ‘A’ final,” said Tate.
Dacus believes medals are possible, too.
“The top three swimmers in each event medal, and that’s certainly possible for her,” said Dacus. “Right now, she’s ranked in the top three in each of her backstroke events,” including the top ranking in the 50-yard backstroke.
Tate could also be a factor in her two-best freestyle events, especially the 50, where’s she ranked fourth with a time of 25.08. Only two Monmouth women have ever swum faster.
“I’m less than three-tenths of a second away from that school record, so it’s pretty close,” said Tate.
And she’s just over a tenth of a second away from the MWC’s second-best time this year.
No matter what Tate achieves at Grinnell, she’ll still have two more seasons to lower her personal-best and school-record times. Beyond that, she plans to put her degree in environmental science to use by helping people, perhaps starting with service in the Peace Corps.
“I want to help solve problems related to harsh conditions in the environment,” she said.
***Courtesy of Nathan Baliva, Monmouth College***