March 31, 2004
GREENSBORO, N.C. –
This season the Florida State University women’s swimming and diving team has shown that it is a power in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The driving force behind this momentum has been the work on the deck of head coach Neil Harper and the performance in the pool by Emma Dutton.
On Wednesday (March 31), both were recognized for their efforts by the conference coaches as Harper was named ACC Coach of the Year and Dutton (Bradford, England) claimed ACC Swimmer of the Year honors.
“It’s a reflection of all the accomplishments of the coaches and the kids in the program, not just what I did,” Harpers said of the award. “Basically it’s an award that reflects of all the hard work that everyone has put into the team this year, the trainers, strength and conditioning and every that contributed to our success. It’s fun that we can all enjoy it together, that’s what I want it to be.”
The Seminole duo is the first to ever win either of the awards presented by the conference. Two years ago, diver Tiffany Manning (Mission Viejo, Calif.) broke FSU’s ten-year drought in the yearly awards when she was named Rookie of the Year.
Ever since Harper took over the reins five years ago, the program has been on the upswing. From a pair of fifth-place finishes at the conference meet in 2000 and 2001, FSU has taken third at each of the last two league summits. In 2004, the Seminoles dominated the top spot on the winner’s stand, taking nine of the 20 titles.
Improvement hasn’t been limited to just the conference championships. The women’s team has never had a .500 record during Harper’s tenure and the last three seasons have seen the program win at least 12 meets, a feat never accomplished at FSU. This season Florida State set the bar even higher as it won a school and conference record 15 dual meets.
“I’m relieved that the program got the recognition that it deserved,” Harper added. “One of the ACC coaches said to me at the NCAA met that we were the best program throughout the year and we proved it at the NCAA Championships. I know how hard our team worked this year and our goal wasn’t to win this, but to win the ACC Championship, but in doing this we’ve raised the bar for this team. We’re at a level that we’ve never been to before and I’m thankful that the ACC coaches have recognized that.”
From the time the season began in October all the way up to the NCAA Championships, no conference swimmer has dominated the water the way Dutton did. During the dual meet season, she was a perfect 21-of-21, winning every race she entered.
It wasn’t until the Texas A&M Invitational that Dutton found out what it was like to finish second. She took the runner-up spot in the 50 and 100 free behind UCLA’s Sara Platzer, who finished third and fourth respectively in those events at the NCAA meet. Dutton did come through with a victory as she notched an NCAA “A” cut time during the 100 breaststroke.
Throughout the year, she recorded seven NCAA automatic qualifying times in four different events. Two events in particular stood out for Dutton as she dominated the 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle. Every time she swam the 100 breast she posted at least an NCAA “B” cut with eight of her ten swims in the 50 making national consideration time.
“This is the icing on top of the cake for Emma,” Harper added. “The conference is getting so much better and the women are posting faster times, but I think this shows that Emma was consistent throughout the entire year. She stepped it up every time we asked her to. She won every race in the dual meets; she got us big points at Texas A&M with “A” cut swims. At the ACC meet she stepped it up again and did what no one else could and basically what she did was win every race that she swam.”
Given her record in the dual meet season, Dutton was poised to have a great performance at the ACC Championships, but few could expect the type of results she produced. Only two other swimmers in the history of the ACC have done what Dutton did over four days in Charlottesville, Va. Every time the senior took the blocks she came up with gold, winning three individual races and taking part in four triumphant relays.
At the league summit, she won the 100 and 200 breaststroke races, as well as 50 freestyle. Both of her times in the breaststroke events set new school and pool records. For her efforts, Dutton became the first Seminole to earn ACC Swimmer of the Meet honors.
With the conference meet successfully dominated, it was time for her to put her talents up against the nation’s best. Going into the NCAA Championships, Dutton was the only league swimmer with three qualifying times in the top eight.
Once again the breaststroke events showcased her talents as she came home with a pair of All-America awards in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. During the course of becoming just the 12th swimmer in school history, and the first in 14 years, to earn a pair of All-America honors, Dutton reset both of her school records. In addition, she also took part in four relays that captured Honorable Mention All-America accolades.
“I think it was every harder for her to have to regroup and perform at an even higher level at the NCAA Championships when it’s really for everything, but she did that,” Harper said. “She was the only two-time All-American in the conference and was the only person in the conference to earn All-American or Honorable Mention All-American six times. I think that really outdistanced her from everyone else.”
While her collegiate career is over, Dutton is still training. She has her sights set on making the British National Team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.