By Ian Shogren
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
After an All-America freshman season featuring breakout performances for the Texas women’s swimming and diving team, sophomore Madisyn Cox has stepped into a leadership role for the Longhorns while elevating into national prominence with Team USA, as well.
In December, the Lubbock, Texas, native traveled over 8,000 miles from Austin to compete for Team USA at the FINA Short Course World Championships in Doha, Qatar. The meet marked Cox’s first opportunity to don the American flag on her swim cap. She competed in the 800m freestyle relay preliminary round and helped the Americans to fifth place in the event.
Cox said that the experience of representing her country overseas was incredible and lived up to everything that she had dreamed about as a kid.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Cox said. “It was everything I dreamed of to represent the United States in international competition. It was amazing to join all of those elite athletes, be surrounded by them and integrate into that culture of the U.S. National Team. That opportunity was unlike anything I have ever done before, and it’s exactly what I want to do more of in the future.”
Although her personal experience will help Texas in the pool, UT head coach Carol Capitani is excited for what the experience in Qatar will mean for Cox’s leadership abilities on the Texas roster.
“There is a huge benefit,” said the third-year Longhorns coach. “Madisyn has developed into the kind of leader who would share her U.S. National Team experiences with her team here on campus. I think everyone’s first experience competing overseas is very personal, but there are some things that can carry over.”
Cox has earned a second selection to a U.S. national team and will compete in the World University Games set for July 4-11 in Gwangju, South Korea where she will compete in the 200m individual medley. Cox’s rise to the international scene came after a freshman campaign that saw her make an immediate impact from the day she stepped onto campus.
Cox dropped significant time in her primary events - the 200 and 400 individual medleys and the 200 breaststroke – during her first semester of college swimming. She carried that momentum into the 2014 Big 12 Championships and won her first individual conference title in the 200 IM.
Cox also helped UT to the Big 12 title in the 800 freestyle relay and posted runner-up finishes in the 400 IM and the 200 breaststroke at the conference meet. As a result, the league’s coaches selected Cox as the Women’s Newcomer of the Meet.
Cox’s strong freshman campaign earned her a berth to compete at the NCAA Championships. She earned honorable mention All-America honors by way of her 16th-place finish in the 200 IM at the national meet.
Her competitiveness in the pool and the productive training environment at UT helped Cox have an immediate impact on the team. She was able to build the confidence she needed to compete in big meets, like the NCAA Championships and the FINA Short Course World Championships in Qatar.
Assistant coach Roric Fink credits that competitive nature in Cox as the reason for her immediate success in Austin.
“A lot of it just has to do with her competitiveness,” Fink said. “She hates to lose. It’s all about being first in everything that she does. That’s a great thing for a competitor to want.”
The competitive streak is one of the reasons that Capitani and Fink sought Cox to be part of their first recruiting class at Texas. They saw a swimmer with impressive club swimming results who had only small, easily correctable technical issues with her strokes. She was swimming fast without doing much work in the weight room, something that the Texas coaches identified as a source of her potential.
That upside is coming to fruition again this season. Cox helped the sixth-ranked Longhorns to a 5-1 fall dual meet record while posting top-five national times in five individual events prior to the fall taper meets.
The goal-oriented Cox has big plans for her sophomore campaign. She wants to score as many points for her team at the Big 12 and NCAA Championship meets. And, like many elite swimmers, Cox has a long-term goal that she can’t get out of her mind: competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“The big goal is always going to be 2016,” Cox admitted. “That’s the goal.”