Hartford, Conn. - When looking at all that Bailey D'Antonio, senior diving captain of the Trinity College swimming and diving team, has been involved with over the past few years, one could say she has taken full advantage of the student-athlete experience. Her leadership role with the divers team, her accomplishments in the classroom, and her research in the rainforests of Costa Rica are just a few impressive examples of how to make the most of one's time at Trinity College. D'Antonio believes that hr experience as a member of the swimming and diving team at Trinity has played the largest role in shaping her Trinity experience and identity.
"I have never seen diving as just the sport or just jumping off the board. It's everything from lifting with the team, to just hanging out together, to doing community service together. It's interdisciplinary, and when you put together every piece of it, it changes your life on campus. It's everything to me," D'Anronio explained.
Bailey D'Antonio's diving career didn't take off until her junior year of high school and at that point she did not imagine herself excelling enough to compete at the collegiate level, making her chance to dive at Trinity even more surreal. One of her friends encouraged her to join her high school's swim team, and on the first day of practice she gave diving a try.
"I was always a soccer player, so I had to adapt to being "pretty" in a sport and having pointed toes and all that," she said when describing the transition into a pool sport for the first time. Given that diving is definitely one of the more unconventional sports, most people are unaware of the heavy pressures that come along with it. You must have an immense amount of mental focus and discipline to perfect such complex dives, and be able to repeat them over and over again in front of a crowd. Hitting the water the wrong way can also leave you feeling like you've hit a cement wall, so body control and poise is key. Despite these challenges that all divers face, Head Diving Coach Peter Suydam sees Bailey as someone who can handle these pressures better than most.
"I can never tell if she has had a bad day or not," Suydam explained. "She just comes in ready to work every day with an authoritative and passionate presence."
During D'Antonio's sophomore season, she suffered from a concussion up until only a few weeks before the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championships, leaving her with a limited amount of time to learn several new dives. Coach Suydam recalls these few weeks leading up to their final meet as the scariest thing his captain had yet confronted.
"Going into the meet, we were all confident in her, but she still wasn't sure of herself, given that these three-meter dives were new to her. The field of competition was elite, with fewer divers than usual, and Middlebury College's huge arena definitely didn't help calm any nerves. Nevertheless, she confronted her fears and did what she had to do. As much as diving is an individual sport, we still get team points from the diving events. She was determined to contribute to the team outcome, and she did. She could've said 'screw it,' but she isn't a quitter," he explained.
Head Trinity Swimming and Diving Coach Carlos Vega also attested to Bailey's evident will power during this time. "At the NESCAC Championships in her sophomore year was when I really saw Bailey's mental toughness come through. It's not easy to try these things out over and over again all by yourself, but Bailey was able to power through it," he stated.
D'Antonio finds the toughest part of diving to be its individual focus, with so much one-on-one time during training and self-criticism. While the pressure of being alone on the diving board can definitely build up at times, she believes that the experience has taught her how to hold herself accountable. When she first started diving at Trinity she was the only diver on the team, which obviously amplified this pressure, but with three freshman divers this year, it is a totally different feel for D'Antonio.
"I have seen myself improve because I have the three of them with me this year, and it's been a great experience showing them the ropes. I see so much potential in them, and it makes me feel like the future of the program is very promising," she stated.
"It has been amazing watching Bailey lead and work with the freshmen and seeing how she has affected their start here. She has taken the little group and made it her own," Coach Vega added.
Coach Suydam added that "Bailey has been instrumental in building the confidence of the younger kids. They respect her more they she knows."
As a junior, D'Antonio decided to take a year-long hiatus from swimming to study abroad and put her academics first. During Trinity's January intersession (J-Term), she visited Trinidad and Tobago and went straight to Costa Rica from there for a semester-long research program to study tropical diseases and how the changing climate has affected human health. She and the 11 other students in the program did hands-on work with the people in the local communities, interviewing over 100 families about their home remedies made with plants that they use to treat certain diseases. They also tested different plants themselves in surrounding rainforests and wrote literary reviews about their effectiveness. At the end of their semester, the group compiled all of their data and presented their findings to the community they worked with, which was very appreciative of their efforts and generosity.
"This sort of experience was exactly what I wanted because I was able to personally interact with the community, while simultaneously doing research to help them in any way I could," D'Antonio exclaimed.
Coach Vega noted that this sort of hands-on help is not an uncommon act for her. "Bailey's compassion was evident this year during our team trip to Puerto Rico. She wanted to help the people there suffering from the aftermath of this fall's hurricane, so she brought a suitcase full of clothes, toys, and other things she collected from home for the people there. She was touched by what they are going through, and just wanted help. I think this really speaks to who she is. It's never about Bailey in her eyes. It's always about everyone else, and she does it out of the goodness of her heart."
While coming back after an entire year off from a sport is not the easiest thing to do, D'Antonio is grateful that she was able to return to the team and contribute to its success this season. This year she has been balancing diving with many other responsibilities on campus. D'Antonio is the president of Trinity's Green Campus Club, which works on multiple projects throughout the year trying to make Trinity more environmentally friendly. Its big project right now is to integrate better composting on campus, and they will be putting on a documentary about food waste at the Cinestudio, Trinity's on-campus movie theater, next week. D'Antonio's passion for helping people and the outdoors encouraged her to work as a Quest leader this past fall, specifically as the logistics coordinator for the rock-climbing segment of the College's outdoor leadership program. She also frequently shadows in the Connecticut Children's Hospital, volunteers at Hartford's Institute of Living, and even works as a sports photographer when she has the time.
D'Antonio has seized every opportunity she could find on campus that has allowed her to fulfill her passion for people and her desire to help others. She believes that it is so important for students to take advantage of everything Trinity has to offer, especially opportunities that connect students to people within the Hartford community.
"Events and programs that Trinity offers such as Do It Day have made me feel like I am where I am supposed to be, knowing that the college acknowledges the good in helping the people around us," D'Antonio explained.
"She is absolutely maximizing her time here, and I've loved seeing her develop and make the most of the Trinity experience," Coach Vega added.
The home stretch of Bailey's final season looks very bright. With her final NESCAC Championship Meet coming up in mid-February at Williams College, the pressures are definitely high, but Coach Vega is not worried.
"She came back with a fire this year and has set herself up for NESCACs to be her best meet yet at Trinity."
written by Chandler Solimine '19