It takes the human eye one-tenth of a second to blink.
For Alex Righi ’09, missing the Olympics swimming team by nine-hundredths of a second may have been heartbreaking, but it has only served as more incentive as he decides what his next move is going to be.
On Friday and Saturday at the H-Y-P meet, the Bulldogs’ biggest league meet for the season, the captain placed first in the 100 backstroke and the 50 freestyle at the event. One of the fastest college swimmers in the nation, Righi has been gracing the waters nationwide since a young age.
“I have been swimming since I was 4,” Righi said. “Swimming is a lot more enjoyable in Phoenix, so it was quickly one of the sports I prioritized and chose as my favorite.”
There is no doubt that any team with Righi onboard is happy he chose to pursue swimming as his favorite sport. As a high school swimmer, Righi was a four-year varsity letterman at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix. As a high school senior, Righi displayed his dominance, winning both the 100 free and 100 backstroke events in the Arizona 5A State Championships and breaking the Arizona state record in the 100 backstroke by more than a second. Righi’s accomplishments did not go unnoticed: He was named the National High School Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine during his senior year of high school.
Despite his amazing accomplishments before arriving at Yale, Righi is quick to point out that high school swimming is very different from collegiate swimming.
“The day-to-day training required in college swimming can be a bit monotonous, but the payoff at the end is one of the things that keep me going,” Righi said.
Payoffs for Righi have continued throughout his college career as well, as the swimmer has set Yale records in the 50 and 100 yard freestyle as well as the 100 yard backstroke. During last year’s NCAA Division I championships, Righi finished in second place in both the 50 and 100 yard freestyle.
Breaking records and winning events, however, have not been Righi’s only motivators over the years.
“On swim days and during hard practices I will also think about my girlfriend, younger brothers who are also swimmers, and my family all on the side of the pool telling me I can do it,” Righi said.
While swimming has been a large part of the Phoenix native’s life up until this point, he is faced with a tough decision as the end of his senior year looms and he considers furthering his education.
“I want to go to law school before I am 26, but I also want to swim,” Righi said. “To devote the next three and a half years to compete for one meet to make the Olympics takes a lot of time and energy for something that isn’t guaranteed, but I hope to find a way to balance swimming professionally and law school.”
Those who swim alongside the Berkeley College senior have no doubt their teammate will succeed in whatever he chooses to do because of his work ethic.
“Outside of the pool, Alex is a relaxed college kid with lanky arms and boyish good look,” Chris Pool ’09 said. “I think his ability to be so relaxed outside of competition and then to focus when it matters is what makes him a successful athlete and student.”
Drew Teer ’10 added that the captain exemplifies the determination for which the team strives on a daily basis.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anyone train with the commitment and drive that he does,” Teer said. “Our team motto for the year is something along the lines of ‘Our relentless toil to the top begins here … step forth and believe’ — I think he embodies that.”