‘Find the fun,’ says new WAC legend Autumn D’Arcy

Autumn D'Arcy

BAKERSFIELD — It was just minutes before a Friday afternoon workout.

More yards. More strokes.

Autumn D’Arcy, in the midst of a sensational sophomore swimming season at Cal State Bakersfield, is eyeing some down-the-road goals.

“I hope I can make the NCAAs,” said D’Arcy, a 2018 Redlands East Valley graduate.

They take 32 swimmers. She’s been ranked 29th nationally in her main event, 100-meter butterfly.

“A lot of swimmers’ times will go down,” she said, “when they start to taper … closer to the championship meets.”

In 2019, D’Arcy missed qualifying by a heartbreaking two-hundredths of a second — in other words, the span of time enough to blink an eye.

These are a championship-level swimmer’s mental notes.

“I’m a better short course swimmer,” said D’Arcy, noting the difference is that short course (meters) and long course (yards) presents different training modes.

All of which is just buildup to a swim season.

D’Arcy’s looking at NCAA Division I championships and U.S. Olympic Trials, the possible tail end of a season of a pool full of hopeful exploits. She hasn’t even started tapering — swimming’s version of prepping for all-out competition — for the Western Athletic Conference championships. D’Arcy continues adding to her growing list of swimming achievements.

It all comes with a full workload of yards in the pool. Laps. It’s yards during the season. Meters during summertimes.

Taper time.

“I’ll wait for WAC (late February in Houston), so it’s not a full taper,” says D’Arcy.

Believe it or not, that’s important information. Swimmers can’t expend total training energy throughout the season. Tapering involves backing off that hard-nosed, high-yardage pace when big meets are about to take place.

It’s probably going to take competition like that — WAC finalists, NCAA qualifiers and Olympic hopefuls — to knock off a red-hot D’Arcy.

Coaches from UC San Diego and Loyola-Marymount couldn’t beat her. D’Arcy took full control against UC Santa Cruz and Fresno-Pacific.

Bakersfield’s fully-informed Sports Information Director, Dan Sperl, has lined up all of D’Arcy’s recent achievements.

For openers, at last count she had 14 individual meet triumphs this season, he noted, two school records (100, 200 fly), qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials (100-fly) and went up against top USA swimmers at the Toyota U.S. Open.

D’Arcy’s 50-yard butterfly clocking (23.78) was not only tops in the WAC, but No. 1 in America.

After winning all three races in a meet against Fresno State last month, which notched a third Swimmer of the Week award for 2019-20, D’Arcy was rapidly approaching a school record for the number of pool triumphs.

Paola Hernandez scored 59 wins over her four seasons at CSUB. Then there’s McKayla Page’s 46 triumphs. D’Arcy, only in her mid-sophomore season, had registered 37 career victories.

D’Arcy’s already got school records in both the 100 (52.50) and 200 fly (1:59.14), 100-individual medley (1:59.97), plus the leadoff portion of the 4 x 50 freestyle relay (1:32.91).

In between all the swimming successes, consider that this is a lifetime swimmer (started at age 6, fully devoted by age 11) whose professional goal seems centered on teaching elementary school.

“I’d love to teach in Redlands,” she said, “but I’ll be happy with anyone giving me a chance.”

If there’s a self-starting motivation in her life, it might seem to be this simple: “Find the fun.”

Swimming, between all those thousands of yards in workouts, can be grueling. D’Arcy, though, loves to race, “Find the fun, to me,” she says, “is racing. I love it.”

She might be the hottest thing to hit the Western Athletic Conference since …. BYU’s Ty Detmer won the 1990 Heisman Trophy (Note: BYU is no longer connected with the WAC).

That jump from REV to Bakersfield deserves some kind of explanation:

She liked the fact that the male and female swimmers work out together, unlike at other campuses. It’s a plus, she noted.

There was another plus. “My sister just graduated from here,” she said. “We’d go up there all the time to watch her swim.”

Autumn’s sister’s name? “Summer.”

A Redlands High graduate. Quick review: That’s Summer of Redlands and Autumn of REV.

“I should’ve gone to Redlands (High School),” said Autumn, opting into now-expected explanation on why anyone transfers to a campus out of their own district.

Turns out those REV teammates — Jenna Sanchez, Sydney Benveniste, Emily Rigsby, McKayla Jean, Liberty Williams and Samantha Nickell, among others — were Redlands Swim Team clubbers she’d grown up with.

“We’re all friends,” said Autumn, “so I transferred to REV before I even started high school.”

There might have been a single moment — besides winning the 2018 Ken Hubbs Award — that would qualify as a single prep highlight. Consider that winning the 2017 CIF title in the 200-medley relay might be just as magnificent.

It was Nickell on the backstroke, Sanchez on breast, D’Arcy on her specialty fly, capped by Benveniste’s freestyle — deadlocked, in fact, 1:45.17 with Santa Ana Foothill.

Truth is that Benveniste’s father, Richard, had just died. All those kids were so close. To each other. To the parents. This was a difficult blow. It might’ve also been extra motivation.

“(Sydney) did the free, anchored our relay,” said D’Arcy. It was, said D’Arcy, “Team BenVen” in that Riverside City College pool at CIF finals.

“We didn’t even know we tied,” said D’Arcy. “We just started celebrating.” Yes, she said.

There were tears.

“It’s just knowing,” she said, “how to find the fun.”