After a summer filled with crack-of-dawn practices and ultra-competitive swim meets, Danielle Carter is finally taking a break.
“It’s nice,” the 2019 graduate of Los Altos High said. “It feels good, but it’s weird not thinking of swimming and practice.”
The 16-day hiatus – which started with a family trip to Disneyland last week – comes after Carter competed in her two biggest meets of the summer. She raced in the Phillips 66 National Championships and Speedo Junior National Championships in back-to-back weeks at Stanford University’s Avery Aquatic Center.
Carter returns to the pool next week, but at another university. She’s headed to UC Berkeley to swim for the Golden Bears.
“I’m really excited,” said Carter, who accepted an athletic scholarship to Cal last fall. “I already know all my teammates and coaches, and I think I’ll have a really good time there. It should be fun.”
It also will involve plenty of hard work; Cal didn’t finish second at last spring’s NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships by chance. That’s just fine with Carter, who estimated that she practiced an average of eight times a week over the summer with her Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA) club team.
“You can’t do it halfway,” the Los Altos resident said of swimming. “You’re either all in or all out.”
Carter has been “in” since age 7. After dabbling in soccer, gymnastics, basketball and water polo – a sport she quit after a week because “it was too aggressive for me” – Carter stuck with swimming.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s always been a fun sport.”
Excelling in the backstroke and butterfly – she competed in the 100- and 200-meter races of both events at junior nationals – Carter also enjoys swimming in relays.
“Personally, I have the most fun swimming them,” she said of relays. “Everyone is so excited about them and they’re more of a team effort – you’re swimming for someone else and cheering them on.”
Although disappointed that her 4x100 freestyle relay team was disqualified at the nationals because the second person left before the first person touched the wall, the foursome from PASA bounced back a week later at nationals. They placed 18th with a time of 3 minutes, 53.03 seconds.
“We did really well,” said Carter, who teamed with Sarah Snyder, Audrey J-Cheng and Sloane Reinstein. “It was close to our best time, and I was happy about it. We finished the meet on a strong note.”
Although Carter didn’t qualify for the finals in her four other events, the 18-year-old nearly equaled her best time in the 100 back. She swam a 1:05.07.
“That was right off my best time,” Carter said. “I executed the race a lot better and it felt good.”
Carter is eager to eclipse her personal-best times when she gets to Cal and also help the team make another run at the national title.
“It would be great to go to NCAAs and make a final there,” she said.
While her favorite individual events are the 100 back and 100 fly, Carter is open to swimming any race she’s asked to enter.
“I’m kind of diverse,” she said, “and I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”
Wherever she’s placed, Carter expects to get better with the team surrounding her.
“A lot of the girls coming in this year are top class, and the girls already there are really good,” she said. “All of them have the same goals as me – to support each other and push each other.”