Caroline Dye is one of the fastest girls in a pool around these parts and it’s been that way for a long time, but there was a stretch there where it wasn’t going swimmingly.
It was a little over a year ago that the then-junior decided to get out of the pool and into some other activities at Glacier High School.
“I took a little break from swimming,” Dye said Tuesday as she and her team prepared to travel to Great Falls for the State swim meet this weekend. “It was – for lack of a better word – a low point in my swimming career. I wasn’t feeling motivated.”
Which is how Dye committed her weeknights instead to a school play in January of 2019.
“I just wanted to try some new stuff,” she says now. “Theatre and music – and that was really great.”
But here’s the deal: Before the low point Dye had been pursuing swimming in college.
She sent out feelers and started getting letters from Nebraska-Omaha coach Todd Samland.
And while Dye was memorizing lines and marks, they kept coming.
“I was really surprised to continue to get letters,” she said. “When he said, ‘Hey, I think you’d be a really good fit for Omaha,’ it let me know I could still do this.”
She remained committed to the play, then rejoined the club swim team in April after an absence of about four months. It was a chilly reception.
“I pretty much thought I would be checked out of swimming,” she said. “The team was not very accepting – it was a big bump to get back over. I think that people thought I’d let them down. It was hard to get to know everybody again. But this year has been super fun.”
Dye owns the sixth-best time in the 100 freestyle and the fourth-best in the 100 backstroke.
Knock out a few swimmers that will go to other events – and Whitefish’s Ada Qunell, who’ll compete in Class A this weekend – and it should come down to Dye and Flathead’s Lily Milner in those races.
And along the way Dye became Glacier’s captain, after the original pick left the team.
It was a striking choice by first-year coach Karen Bouda, and it signaled that Dye was all the way back.
“I wasn’t sure if Karen was going to pick a new captain,” Dye said. “But when I was asked I was happy to step in.”
“I’ve known her since she was probably 6 or 7 years old,” said Bouda, a long-time club coach. “She really stepped up too being a co-captain (along with Flathead’s Gus DeSouza) this year, and being a positive leader for these younger kids. A real motivator and a positive help to these kids who maybe need extra attention.”
By this point Dye had made a visit to Omaha, and loved it. She made one more visit to Wisconsin-Green Bay, then canceled another to Minnesota State-Mankato.
With the aim of becoming a sportscaster, Dye will study Mass Communications with an emphasis in broadcasting at Omaha. She’s the first-ever Montana commit in the school’s history.
“When I got there, I immediately fell in love with it,” she said. “My parents and I just knew. It was the perfect fit.
Here’s to new things. Nebraska will be different from the Flathead Valley, far away from the kids she’s swam with for the better part of a decade, give or take a few months. But there will be a pool.
“Now that I’m back,” Dye said, “I wonder why I left in the first place.”