From December 8th to 11th, 2011, Cole Collier ’17 stole a page from the Michael Phelps record book. Swimming in Buffalo’s Star Invitational, with over 700 elite qualifiers from New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan, Cole completed a total of 22 races and ended up winning eight of the ten events he entered. This gold rush made him the meet’s high-point champion for boys 12-and-under and, in his words, “pretty tired.”
While swimming the maximum number of events the Buffalo meet allowed, Cole also broke two all-time records for his team, AGUA (Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics), an elite squad from the New York metro area that trains on the Upper East Side. His new record of 1:01 for the 100-yard IM (individual medley) crushed the prior record from 2006; his 200-yard IM performance ousted a record from 1999, the same year Cole was born. This joins his 59.63 record time for the 100-yard butterfly and comprises three of what promise to be more short-course records for the team, which will send seven swimmers to the Olympic trials this summer.
For the past two years, Cole has been ranked #1 in the Northeast region for the butterfly, but he admits, “Last year, I hit a bit of a plateau. This year (since September) I have become faster and dropped time in each event. Last year, my times got slower as the longer meets went along. That doesn’t happen this year.”
This “drop” has something to do with the simple fact that he grew five inches over the past year, but it has much to do with his excellent physical conditioning. A high honors student training for his black belt in Jujitsu, Cole practices five or six days a week, two hours per session. “I usually try to make a certain part of each workout intense. I never go there to swim easy and be just like ‘whatever,’” he says. He receives his principal coaching from Jialin Hu, a member of the Chinese National Swim Team in the 1970s, and a coach at the club and collegiate level for the past 28 years. “My coaches think I need to work on my backstroke and freestyle; I give myself advice too.” On the AGUA team, Cole finds his best training partner in a 12 year-old girl who is “about 6 feet tall.”
Cole competes in 15-20 multi-day meets each year. When he’s on the road, he typically wakes up at 5:15 so he can be at the pool by 6:30 to begin his warm ups. The morning preliminary races – anywhere from 50 to 500 yards – happen quickly, sometimes no more than 25 minutes apart. “Between races, I eat and drink a lot. My mom makes this wonderful fruit smoothie that has eight different types of fruits in it. It really gives me a lot of energy.” By noon, Cole heads back to the hotel to eat more and rest before he returns to the pool for finals.
By the time the prestigious Buffalo event rolled around, Cole had put up the kind of results that had him ranked first for many of the events. Rather than being intimidated by the pressure this might cause, Cole says, “I was really excited to see this ranking. It motivates me.”
It can also put a target on his back: During a 100-yard butterfly event, Cole’s specialty, kids from another team heckled him to “slip” after the “Take your mark” command. “I guess they were jealous or something like that,” he says. While he admits, “I was kind of shocked when I got in the pool,” he gathered his composure to earn the top preliminary time in the event. He went on to win the final.
But Cole’s strongest impression from Buffalo came during the 200-yard freestyle, which he admits to being “one of my worst events.” “Me and this other kid were head to head,” he recalls, “but in the last 50 [yards], I pulled away [to win] and the place exploded.”
Even though Cole’s older brother, Christian ’15, was in school during the Buffalo event, his cheers were felt. “I just think Cole is amazing. He blows me away. It’s just unbelievable. Next to my mom and little brother (Cort ’21) I’m probably his loudest fan.”
This winter, Christian and Cole join forces to swim for BWL. “This will be a great experience,” Cole said, moments before the team’s first meet, against Columbia Prep. “It’s good to go against older swimmers.” Coach Kate Lennon is also appreciative. “One thing that really stands out about Cole, aside from his talent in the pool, is his commitment to being a team player. Swimming is often considered to be an individual sport, but Cole puts the needs of the team first.” This meant that literally seconds before the 50-yard breaststroke, Cole volunteered his services – and won against kids five years older than him.
Cole will turn 13 on April 24, which he admits to be the perfect birthday for a swimmer: “That’s exactly when the short course season ends.” January and February will take him to several regional meets, but all training angles toward the Eastern Zones competition in Rochester in late March, where he will compete against the entire Northeast, from Maine to Virginia. His goal is to win the 12-and-under division there, making him the all around #1 swimmer in the East.