Casey Clark stars in and out of the swimming pool
Junior Casey Clark seems like just another Rice student at first glance, but she actually holds three Rice women's swimming records and has represented Rice in the Olympic trials. With her easygoing, friendly demeanor, Clarke does not seem like a high-profile athlete, and yet she helped bring Rice back to the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years.
Clark, who started swimming at the age of seven, has been a standout swimmer for Rice since she arrived in 2011. As a freshman, the Spring, Texas native shared the Rookie of the Year Award with fellow freshman Erin Flanigan and broke a 15-year-old Rice record in the 100-yard butterfly. She attended the Olympic trials the summer before her sophomore year after qualifying for both the 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter fly.
She has continued to improve throughout her time at Rice and recently broke three Rice records this fall in the 200-yard free (1:45.69), the 100-yard fly (52.85) and the 200-yard fly (1:57.28).
Head Coach Seth Huston said Clark's strengths come from both her physical skills and a strong mental game.
"She has a great feel, great strokes in the free and the fly, and she's really a very efficient swimmer," Huston said. "She's very level-headed. She doesn't get super jacked up or excited when something good happens, and in the same token, when she doesn't perform that well, she just doesn't let it bother her."
As a junior who has been successful in the butterfly, freestyle and backstroke, Clark has led the team across the board. But as far as her role in the team dynamic, Clark said she is more of a subdued leader.
"I'm more of a lead-by-example type of person," Clark said. "I don't necessarily try to force my leadership on people. I'm pretty quiet, and I keep to myself about a lot of stuff, and I just kind of show up and work hard. I hope that other people respect that and do the same."
Clark has also led by example outside of the pool. As a civil engineering major, Clark also dedicates a lot of time to her academic career at Rice. She has been on the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll for both of her seasons at Rice so far and balanced a summer internship with swim practice last summer. Her daily summer schedule consisted of swimming from 6-8 a.m., working from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and coming back to swim from 4-5:30 p.m. This summer, she will be working as an intern for BP.
Huston said that even though Clark's list of accomplishments has made quite a mark on Rice swimming history, Clark has never let it affect her relationship with the team.
"She treats everyone with a lot of respect, and she doesn't act like she's better than everybody else," Huston said. "In fact, if you lined her up with the rest of the girls, you wouldn't know that she's better or at a higher level. She's just one of the girls."
Another month lies ahead before the conference championships in February, which Rice won last year for the second time in school history. Clark said the team is hoping to defend its championship. After being the only Rice swimmer to qualify for the NCAA tournament last season, Clark said she looks to score at the NCAA tournament.
"It was really exciting to go [to the NCAAs], but I definitely feel like I would have performed better and probably enjoyed the experience more if my teammates were with me," Clark said.
But before that point, Clark and the rest of the Owls will pick up their season against the University of Arkansas this Saturday after a monthlong break.
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