By Heather Harris Michonski, Bridgewater State University News
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Richard Smith, ’19, recently returned to campus as an Honorable Mention All-American, a title he earned while competing at the 2018 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.
The Milford native broke his own school record last month, when he placed 16th in the preliminaries of the 200 breaststroke at the national meet held at the Natatorium on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.
He swam 2:03:41 in the 200 breaststroke, surpassing his previous mark of 2:05:04 set last year at the New England Intercollegiate Swimming and Diving Association Championships.
Richard also finished 32nd in the 200 individual medley and 18th in the 400 individual medley with a school-record time of 3:59:45.
“It was really exciting,” Richard said of the meet. “It was a little overwhelming on the first day but on the second day I calmed down.”
With the NCAA meet behind him, the 2013 St. John’s High School (Shrewsbury) graduate shares some of the obstacles he’s faced along the way both in and out of the pool. At age 16 Richard was diagnosed with complex partial seizures.
“My condition is kind of hard to explain,” he said. “Basically I get a feeling in my head, a pulsing sensation. If it’s strong enough I get an overwhelming feeling of laughter. If it happens too many times in a row, my brain gets overcharged and shuts down and I blackout. I’m awake but not really there.”
In high school Richard experienced a seizure mid-race.
“Halfway through the race I spaced out. I had no idea where I was,” he said.
Despite the incident, Richard’s instincts and muscle memory took over and he was able to finish.
After trial and error he was able to find the right medication to successfully manage the seizures and live a normal life.
Before coming to BSU, Richard swam at Division 1 Old Dominion in Norfolk, VA. After two years he knew he wanted to transfer and liked what he found in terms of support at Bridgewater.
“There are just as many opportunities in Division 3 sports as Division 1. At Bridgewater I felt I could be a bigger contributor to the team,” Richard said.
Through his accomplishments and recognition, Richard has been able to shed light on some of the opportunities a state school can offer.
“The teachers helped me out a bunch,” he said. “And coach (Mike Caruso) cares, often checking in on us and making sure we’re doing well in school.”
His time as a competitor in the pool may be over, but Richards, who is studying environmental geosciences, plans to volunteer coach alongside Mr. Caruso next year.
“I hope to be able to help out and teach different techniques as well as recruit. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.