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Cyclone Spotlight: Hannah Riley cuts her times

Three weeks ago the Mills College Swim Team participated in two meets in Southern California where Senior Hannah Riley dropped over two seconds in her 50 yard breaststroke split time on the relay from Sunday to Monday, a significant time improvement for a short distance to swim. She also dropped 3.19 seconds in the 100 yard breaststroke and 8.24 seconds in the 200 yard breaststroke.

(Kurt Loeffler)
(Kurt Loeffler)

“Hannah is reaching her training potential as we prepare for our final meets of the season,” head swim coach Neil Virtue said. “She has pushed herself in practice and the results are starting to really show.”

Riley revealed that she was also surprised by how much her hard work in practice
paid off.

“I was very surprised to know I cut so much time in my races to be honest!” Riley said. “I think what did it for me was the mental aspect of it all. We were at these huge pools with much larger teams and I just realized that I probably wasn’t going to win, it just felt like an unrealistic goal for me.”

Despite the odds being against her, Riley pushed herself to the end.

“All week long before the meet, my coach said to ‘unleash the dogs,’ so I just sort of went for it,” she said. “Going into the race with my mind relaxed helped me focus on my own race and, most importantly, helped me to not think. There’s only so much your body can do, but your mind controls everything.”

Riley began swimming with Mills last Spring and has prior swim experience from high school.

“I swam for my high school, but I never challenged myself to make it far,” she said. “There were too many people to feel motivated and so many of them were so good, I just didn’t think I mattered much and I didn’t receive the attention I needed to grow.”

At Mills, however, Riley has been given the opportunity to grow individually and as a teammate during her three semesters on the team. According to her teammates, Riley brings a positive attitude and strong work ethic, involving the discipline to train and improve herself.

“The biggest part for me is just showing up to practice,” Riley said. “Sometimes you also have to be willing to not be able to give your entire effort. Sometimes we get hurt and need to be mindful of those injuries in order to heal quickly and get back to being at our 100 percent. There’s a good balance.”

What throws Riley off balance is constantly thinking about all the things she can improve.

“It can be good, but when it comes to racing, it can also be your biggest down fall,” Riley said. “You have to know when it’s time to focus and just let your body know what it knows how to do. I think every day is preparation for swimming. Every moment inside and outside of practice counts towards what you can give. It’s all about attitude inside and outside of the pool.”

This positive attitude has granted Riley recognition from her teammates with the “Sunshine Award,” given annually to a team member who brightens the team atmosphere and supports her teammates. Riley received the award in Spring 2012, alongside Desirae Tongco, a four-year Sunshine Award winner, after being on the team for only five weeks.

“I have the greatest coaches and teammates,” Riley said. “It’s hard  to not be happy spending every day with the most wonderful people. I can honestly say they will be life long friends. Part of being the best I can be is giving the best I can, and I really love to be there for them. I never even have to think about it, it just happens!”