Cole Avery always wanted to go to a NCAA Division I school, as every athlete does. But Avery was an elite swimmer for Bellingham Bay Swim Team since he was 6 years old, breaking 65 club records in the process.
He qualified for USA Junior Nationals, was a Northwest Senior Sectional finalist and ranks in the top 10 nationally in the 400 individual medley and the 200 butterfly.
All of those accolades led to plenty of college eyes including the coaches from the University of Utah, West Virginia University, the U.S. Naval Academy and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
On Wednesday, Nov. 12, Avery decided to go with Utah and signed his National Letter of Intent in front of his entire club team, who held a signing party for him.
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“It’s a huge relief,” Avery said in a phone interview, “just getting the whole college process done.”
Utah, which is part of the Pacific-12 conference, piqued Avery’s interest for several reasons — namely, the closeness to home. The championship meet is held at King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, a familiar pool to the experienced Avery.
Utah’s campus was also “gorgeous” and reminded him of the Northwest, with the trees, mountains and even a few deer on campus.
“(A Utah coach) reached out to me in early July. It was pretty much easy sailing from there,” Avery said. “I went to campus. I fell in love with the team. I’m happy with the decision.”
Since the call from Utah was one of Avery’s first, admittedly he was a little nervous. But the coach explained the process and months later, he was destined for Utah.
While Avery swam for BBST most of his life, he did swim for Sehome for a brief stint. High school swimming wasn’t for Avery though.
“I didn’t really enjoy the high school swimming experience at its core,” Avery said. “Don Helling is a great coach. ... I just wasn’t completely happy compared to club.”
BBST offered what high school couldn’t — eight or nine practices a week all year long. BBST coach Sean Muncie has also been a big push for Avery.
“He’s fierce and he knows what he’s doing. It’s nice to have a rep like his to fall back on,” Avery said. “I trust him. He’s helped me swim a lot faster, and get a lot better as a person and athlete.”
All that hard work finally paid off with his signing last Wednesday.
But that doesn’t mean the work stops now. It seems to have made Avery even more hungry.
“It’s definitely exciting, just to know all these years of training paid off,” Avery said. “Now going to a school at the top of Division I, in the Pac-12 conference, I can’t back down at this point. I have to train really hard. But I’m excited to swim with best of best out there.”
Utah finished fifth in the Pac-12 championships the past three seasons but Avery believes the team has what it takes to go to the top.
As far as his personal goals, he’s looking at the 2016 Summer Olympics, which has trials coming up, as a possibility, saying he’s not too far off those cut times.
That’s not to say Avery is overlooking his No. 1 goal — “just to get faster.”
For now, he’ll just be happy with his signing.
“It’s everything I wanted in a college,” Avery said.