Nov. 17, 2011
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, July 28, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2011-12 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Becky Stoughton is in the early stages of her collegiate career with the University of Iowa women's swimming and diving program. You sure wouldn't know it.
The Peoria, Ill., native has set 12 school and pool records in the first four meets of her collegiate career.
"It's not easy," said Stoughton, one of 13 freshmen on the roster. "You just have to keep going."
In her Hawkeye debut, Stoughton won three events and posted pool records at Iowa's Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (CRWC) Pool. She followed that performance by winning the same three events, and breaking a 13-year pool record in the 1,000-free at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium.
On Oct. 28, in a dual meet against Michigan State, Stoughton set a school and pool record in the 400-individual medley (IM) (4:17.90) at the CRWC Pool. She broke former UI All-American Jennifer Skolaski's school-record time of 4:20.14, set in 2003, by more than two seconds.
Stoughton wasn't done. On Nov. 4, she set school and pool records in the 1,000 free, 500 free and 400 IM in a dual meet against Minnesota. Her time in the 1,000 free is leading the nation, while her 500 free and 400 IM times are NCAA "B" qualifiers. She was honored for her performance as the Division I National Swimmer of the Week by collegeswimming.com and as the Big Ten Conference Swimmer of the Week.
"She's been a pleasant surprise," said UI head coach Marc Long. "I think some of the things that stood out during the recruiting process were her personality -- she's always excited to race. All these things are really holding true."
Stoughton's acumen for racing is allowing her to compete in some of the most grueling events with short rest-time intervals.
"She's doing some of the toughest doubles we have," said Long. "She's swimming the 1,000 free, basically stepping out and doing the 200 free. She's not only winning these events, but she's winning in record fashion.
"Then she goes on to swim the 500 free, and she led off our sprint medley at the end of a meet and went her best time ever. I think it comes from a lot of hard work and determination, and I certainly feel the best is yet to come for her."
When Stoughton has a full array of races on her swimming docket, she tries to stay in the moment and perform.
"When I am swimming the 1,000 free, I am trying to think about the 1,000 and not think that in 10 minutes, I'll be swimming again," she said. "I'm trying to think, here is the here and now, give it the best that you've got, do what you can.
"Once it's over, don't dwell on how you do. The next event is completely different; you just have to work on what's given to you right away."
"You can't hide in her events," said Long. "When you're swimming the 1,650, 1,000 and 500, you have to be in great shape both mentally and physically, and she certainly is. She keeps a good sense about things. She has an easy perspective about things and has fun with it."
Swimming didn't always appeal to Stoughton. As an eight-year old, she had no interest in pursuing the sport.
"I wanted to be a cheerleader when I was little," said Stoughton. "My brother wanted to join swimming, so my parents thought it would be convenient if we both swam together. They signed me up without asking, which didn't go down well, but things have worked out."
Stoughton became entrenched quickly in the sport. She began swimming year-round at nine years of age. In high school, Stoughton was a four-time All-American and all-state selection at Peoria Notre Dame High School, where she set eight school records and was a three-time team most valuable player.
Colleges from approximately 40 schools sent Stoughton recruiting letters trying to persuade her to attend their schools, but her interest never waned in the University of Iowa, thanks to the atmosphere surrounding the team.
"Everybody is so great and positive," said Stoughton. "As hard as swimming is, the team keeps a positive attitude and they make you want to come and swim. Even if it is hard, even if it is 5:30 in the morning, you still want to get up and be around these people."
Beyond the record-setting performances, Stoughton has been an invaluable addition to the Iowa women's program.
"She's worked hard and has a personality that she's very tenacious and very positive, which really spreads throughout the team," said Long. "She's really been a spark plug for our program.
"To be able to step up like that gives a lot of confidence to the young group we have. She's one of the reasons that we're having some early success."
While Stoughton has larger-than-life goals for herself, she's keeping herself grounded and focusing on her first season.
"My big goal right now is to try and make finals at the Big Ten Championships," she said. "My goal for dual meets is to shoot for records and top times, and do whatever I can to help out the team.
"I am staying more in this year. Once I get adjusted, I'll start thinking more about the future."
"Clearly her goals are high," said Long. "We have high expectations for her, and she has high expectations for herself. One of them is certainly the NCAAs, that is the event you want to be at, and the event you want to perform well at."
The Iowa women's swimming and diving team will host the 2012 Big Ten Women's Swimming and Diving Championships at the CRWC Pool on Feb. 15-18.