TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – When freshman Madeline Cohen touched the wall in the 200 back at the Georgia Tech Invite, she had no idea her time of 1:53.51 was the fastest in Florida State history or the oldest swimming record in the book.
All she knew was it was seven seconds faster than her previous best time, which was just over two-minutes.
It took the coaches and her teammates to deliver the news as she walked to the warm-down pool, but her response was that of utter shock.
“Oh my gosh, are you serious? That’s crazy,” Cohen said. “I didn’t even know it was an FSU record when I touched the wall.
“I went in with a goal of trying to get the record in the 100 back, which I was pretty close to. The 200 back wasn’t even on my radar because I’ve never really been a 200 back swimmer.”
Prior to the meet, Cohen set her sights on the 100 back school record – and she was just shy of the mark set by McKayla Lightbourn (52.39) with a 52.65, which is currently the third fastest time in school history.
“I never really looked at myself as a 200 backstroker. I always looked at myself as a 100 freestyler and 100 backstroker.”
But like most swimmers that compete for both their high school and club teams over the winter, Cohen didn’t have much experience with the 200s of strokes before arriving at FSU.
Cohen has accepted the challenge of the transition to the 200 back, rather than focusing on the 100 free.
“At the bigger meets, the 100 free and 200 back were always back-to-back, and I always went with 100 free,” Cohen said. “Coming here, I am more of a backstroker now, more than a freestyler, but I feel like I’m both at the same time.
“I never really truly swam it (the 200 back) that much, so that is why I probably dropped so much time, and swimming it more than just three times a year is a big, big change.”
It also meant that much more to the Lawrenceville, Ga.. native, setting the record at the McAuley Aquatic Center – in a pool she grew up competing in after suffering heartbreak in the spring of 2017 when she was disqualified in the 100 back at the Georgia State Championships.
“I meant so much to me. My senior year of high school at state I got DQed for a false start,” she said. “So going in there and doing so much better, I feel like I regained myself because I would get on myself for safe starts. I go back to that moment when I was trying to get the state record in the 100 back and it didn’t work out, I knew I needed to redeem myself and when I swam those two swims in that pool, it just meant so much. I grew up in that pool so it meant a lot.”
Following the Georgia Tech Invite, Cohen’s time in the 200 back ties her for 12th nationally and is currently the top time in the ACC.
“I’m so happy for Maddy and her recent success,” FSU head coach Neal Studd said. “She comes from a great club team but does what I ask of her every day. She has really bought in to what we are doing, follows the plan and works really hard. So that makes her success even better in my eyes.”
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