TAMPA, Fla. — Since she was seven, Sophie Long’s best times in the pool have been an inextricable part of her identity.
This is about to change for the native of Cleethorpes, UK as the end of the NCAA Division II this week means she will step away from competitive swimming.
She’s doing it as an All-American, thanks to a fourth place finish in the 800 yard free relay, along with teammates Hana Van Loock, Katie Bayes, and Gabbie Gaunt.
After four years, three NCAA championship appearances and one school record in the 100 yard butterfly, she feels it will be difficult to end this chapter of her life.
“It’s definitely much like a part of my identity,” she said, by the pool at the University of Tampa. “It’s like the only thing I know how to do very well, so it’s going to be very strange when I stop swimming.”
A butterfly and freestyle specialist, Long broke the school record in the 100 fly with a 55:48 mark in 2016. In addition, she qualified for the NCAA team in three out of her four years and was an honorable mention in the All-Sunshine State Conference team in 2018.
“I think that for her, being a senior, she realized that ‘this is it, I’m never going to be able to do this again’,” coach Jimi Kiner said before practice. “So, she really put everything that she had into swimming.”
The Spartans’ practice started early on a sunny Spring Break Friday, as the tired-looking athletes trudged to the pool and started warming up at 8 a.m. Although this routine is about to change for Long, staying out of the water for too long doesn’t seem to be an option.
“I get really antsy when I don’t swim,” she said. “I would love to coach younger kids, but I’ll probably do that back in England.”
Long feels that staying in the U.S. after finishing college might be complicated. Her connections and opportunities in England, combined with the current lack of jobs in America, make her lean towards returning home.