Athlete of the Week: Hayley Cardinal

By Gabriel Armistead Chapman

This week, I sat down with senior Hayley Cardinal of the women’s swim team, who is off to a great start to the season after an excellent showing at the All-Wisconsin Showcase on Oct. 24 and being named the Midwest Conference Swimmer of the Week. In a field that included competition ranging from Division I to Division III schools, Cardinal finished eighth in the 100-yard breaststroke, 10th in the 200-yard breaststroke and 14th in the 200-yard individual medley—finishing all with the best times in the Midwest Conference during that weekend. Cardinal followed that performance the following weekend with wins in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard breaststroke against Ripon College.


Gabe Chapman: Talk about a fast start. Did you have a good offseason?

Hayley Cardinal: It was probably not my best offseason if I’m going to be honest. I went abroad from March until August, so usually I have access to a pool or somewhere where I can work out, but this year, I was traveling around. Luckily, we had pretty serious captain practices where everyone was showing up and we were doing a lot of yardage, which I think helped me a lot. So, really, it’s just the participation from the team and the freshmen that’s been a big change. I’ve seen the results and I think that’s helped a lot. But usually for me, the offseasons are a lot better.


GC: What do you think helped you succeed at the All-Wisconsin Showcase?

HC: I think that meet went really well honestly, because everyone was on their feet cheering for every race. That’s what I think makes our team different from other teams—we’re always there for each other. I can definitely tell the difference. As a breaststroker and individual medley swimmer, it’s the one stroke where I can hear really well and that definitely makes a difference between silence and cheering. For me, mentally, that’s a big help. We also don’t usually have the competition from Division I schools, so that was a big motivator as well.


GC: Is that the biggest non-conference meet you will participate in?

HC: Probably, it’s definitely up there. It’s probably the most competitive. For that meet, we’ve only been in the water for three weeks whereas other schools have been practicing for longer because of the late start we have here. It’s definitely a huge one.


GC: How’d you feel about your win against Ripon?

HC: It felt pretty good. There was a girl I swim with in the individual medley who I know is a top finisher in the conference, so it was good to get back in the water and feel it out. Our whole team did so well. I was really excited for everyone. I wanted to go a little bit faster, but we’re getting to that point in the season where everyone is a little beat-up. I’m really happy with my wins. I would like to go faster—I had some goals in mind, but I was around where I wanted to be. I think the team did so well that there was a really good energy, so it was exciting to see everyone do so well.


GC: What’s your best event, and what do you want to improve on the most?

HC: I’ve always done the same three events. Last year, I hit some times that were faster than my dream goal times, so working on those and getting back to where I was time-wise. I do the 200 breaststroke, 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke; luckily two of those are basically the same, so it’s all about building up my endurance. I always need to improve my backstroke for the 200 individual medley. We always have a lot of good backstroke swimmers on the team, so just trying to keep up with them has been good. I also want to improve on staying positive. I can be pretty hard on myself when I don’t improve on my times every meet, which is a totally normal thing to do, but having certain expectations for myself is good. However, I still need to work on staying positive when they are not always met.


GC: Do you have any superstitious pre-game routines you always do before a race?

HC: I have to have orange Gatorade. You can’t really eat a lot during a meet because you’re nervous and you can feel full when you’re swimming. I feel weird if I don’t have my orange Gatorade. The blue flavor is disgusting and red is too much, so yeah orange is my favorite flavor. Also, I totally have a weird pre-race ritual where I listen to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” on a loop and sing the opening section of Vampire Weekend’s “Walcott” in my head to get my pacing and my heart rate up right before I get on the blocks.