Danielle Wahl ’15 swims the English Channel
Danielle Wahl ’15 excelled in the pool for Centre during the 2012-13 season, winning Southern Athletic Association championships in the mile freestyle and 800-meter relay, but her accomplishments did not end with the conclusion of the swimming season.
After months of training, Wahl, a rising junior from Colorado Springs, Colo., swam the English Channel on Friday, July 5, completing the 21-mile journey in just under 10 hours. Wahl departed from Dover, England, at 9 a.m., eventually reaching the shore in France nine hours and 49 minutes later.
Reflecting on the accomplishment after returning home to Colorado, Wahl was simply content to see her months of hard work reach a successful conclusion.
“I feel relieved,” Wahl said. “There was a lot of hype leading up to it, and I was very blessed to have good conditions on the day I did it. I’m glad I did it, but I’m glad it’s over.”
Not only is Wahl one of fewer than 1,400 people to accomplish the task since the first successful crossing in 1875, but she is one of the quickest. Her swim was the fastest so far in the 2013 season, which runs from July through September, and would have been third among 103 successful crossings in 2012, according to records on Dover’s website. The record for the fastest swim is six hours and 55 minutes, while the fastest swim by a woman is seven hours and 25 minutes.
Aside from the 21 miles of swimming, Wahl had several other obstacles to negotiate, including water temperatures in the 50s, strong ocean currents, boat traffic in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes and six jellyfish stings.
“I’m very, very excited for Danielle and her accomplishment,” said Centre Head Swimming and Diving Coach Dean Brownley. “It’s a little bit mind boggling to think she got in the water and swam 21 miles, did it with six jellyfish stings and did it against a tough current. I’m in amazement that she was able to pull it off. In 22 years of coaching, I’ve never had anybody do this, and I’m honored that she’s the first to be able to pull it off. It definitely sets the tone for this season, and I’m very excited to see what we can accomplish as a team now.”
The swim was the culmination of several months of hard work for Wahl, who began specifically training to swim the channel last September, while also gearing up for the college swimming season. She swam between 40,000 and 60,000 yards a week during that time and began transitioning to open water swimming in Herrington Lake after the conclusion of the season. Equally important to training for the distance was building a tolerance for cold water, which Wahl did by swimming in the lake in early spring and sitting in ice baths at Centre. However, Wahl noted, even the 56-degree ice baths were a few degrees warmer than the water during early portions of Friday’s swim.
“It’s been in the last two or three years when I realized it was something I really wanted to do,” Wahl said about the swim. “I had heard about people doing it before when I was younger, but it’s just been in the last few years when I’ve realized the kind of commitment it takes and decided it was something I wanted to do. I’ve been training for it since September, so it was kind of nice to train with two goals in mind. I wanted to contribute and have an impact for our team at Centre, but at the same time I was also training for this swim.”
Wahl may have been exhausted and relieved after her swim, but she wasn’t able to stay away from the water for long. She returned to the pool shortly after returning home, and though she doesn’t plan on resuming the intense workouts just yet, she is already looking forward to next season and hasn’t ruled out another long open water swim.
“I got back in the pool this morning,” Wahl said just five days after her Channel swim. “Swimming is a big part of my life, and I feel like my day isn’t complete without it. I love challenges, and after doing something like that, I find it to be addicting. I don’t have anything specific picked out, but I’m definitely looking to do more big open water swims in the future. In the meantime, I’m just hoping to train hard and have a positive impact on the team this year.”
Wahl, who was accompanied on the escort boat during the swim by her father, Michael, her brother, Devin, and Centre Assistant Coach Nick Thompson, went on to thank those around her who helped make the swim possible, whether it was help during her training or in the form of encouragement and moral support.
“I really thought the Centre community gave me so much support and was such a big influence on this swim,” Wahl finished. “I definitely appreciate everything everyone has done, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
By Matthew Montavon, Sports Information Director