Anna Hopkin had quite the finish to her first season at Arkansas.
Hopkin, who graduated from Bath University in England last July, put on a show at her first NCAAs. She finished fifth overall in a tightly contested 50 yard freestyle and second overall in 100 yard free with a time of 46.56. Hopkin trailed only Mallory Comerford as the Louisville swimmer finished at 46.26.
After graduating, Hopkin felt that to keep swimming in England, she would have to juggle a full time job with workouts. But then another opportunity came her way when she decided to pursue a master’s degree and swim with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
“I think more than anything I’m just so happy I took the chance and came out here,” Hopkin said. “I had no idea that it was going to take off that well in my first year.”
Hopkin said she was most pleased with her performance in the 100 free. But the 50 free left her desiring a bit more.
“I think on the 50 because it was so close between third and fifth, I was only .02 off getting third,” Hopkin said. “I was just kind of frustrated when I finished and saw how close it was. I just wanted to get the third spot but obviously I can’t be unhappy with a PB.”
While her showing at NCAAs was impressive for a swimmers transitioning from swimming in England to college swimming in America, Hopkin wants more.
She will be traveling back to the UK for the 2019 British Swimming Championships starting on April 16th. Making the World Championship team is her and Arkansas head coach Neil Harper’s end goal. It has been the top priority ever since Hopkin stepped on campus in Fayetteville.
“If you make the ultimate goal the nationals of making your team to go to World Championships, you understand and you kind of deal with SECs, you kind of deal with NCAAs,” Harper said. “Then you’re still confident and know that you haven’t sold your soul to the swim gods for the meet before the one you really want.”
Now the meet she really wants is coming up quickly, and the relationship she has with Harper has prepared her for this moment. Hopkin still recalls one of the first conversations she had with Harper.
“He kind of listed off everything he thought I could improve on and that really resonated with me because it kind of felt like there was so much he could help me with and he had so much faith in what I could do,” Hopkin said. “I definitely kind of knew that we’d be a good team.”
And Harper, a former two time Olympian with the British National Team himself, is glad Hopkin took the chance on him and his program.
“We forged a pretty good relationship straight away,” Harper said. “I think for her to sort of take the chance and come out to America and start a master’s degree, that’s a big leap of faith.”
Harper will join Hopkin at the British Swimming Championships as the two will continue to work and train together even after the collegiate season has ended.
“I said to her when I recruited her, I said look, I’m going to see you through this,” Harper said. “I won’t just coach you and send you with practices and wish you good luck and give you a thumbs up, I’m going to come. I’m going to go.”
Hopkin believes the areas she has improved most since becoming a Razorback is on her underwaters and turns.
As a result, it’s given her more energy throughout the race, but at one point in time in particular.
“That’s definitely something I can improve on going into long course is pacing it a bit better and knowing that I have got enough left to kind of come back on people at the end,” Hopkin said. “I would always rely on my front end but it’s kind of nice to know I’ve got a back end now as well.”
Hopkin has seen success at British Swimming Championships in the past as she won gold in the 50 freestyle at the 2017 meet.
But now she will attend the meet as a new swimmer with a new training regimen behind her, looking for more.
“I had to tell you that there’s not too many young women her age that were already at her level that were so humble, so comfortable and just so willing to do whatever it takes to get to the next level,” Harper said. “It was very gratifying for me because I’ve been coaching for a long time … She’s always been very approachable, very coachable, very eager to learn.”