A ‘one in a billion’ swimmer

Published 9:53 am Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC) has been mourning the sudden loss of one of its own over the weekend, with coaches, students and faculty reflecting on the impact made and left behind by freshman Harrison Carter Cole.

One of those areas of impact came competitively in the pool, where the 18-year-old got his college swimming career off to a sensational start during the 2016-17 season.

“Carter had incredible raw talent,” Hampden-Sydney Head Swimming Coach Betsy Leonard said. “The team always fed off of his work ethic. He broke quite a few records and was consistently featured as a standout performer after each meet.”

She noted that he was a year-round swimmer growing up.

As detailed in an obituary posted by his family at www.FoundandSons.com, Cole served as captain on the Culpeper County High School Blue Devils swim team. He broke several school records there and also earned Virginia High School League Group 3A all-state honors as an upperclassman for his performance in both individual and relay events.

The obituary also notes that he was a competitive swimmer with The Nation’s Capital Swim Club, which is described on its website as one of the premier clubs in the U.S.

Cole’s accomplishments in the pool spoke for themselves.

H. Carter Cole

“He was a top recruit for us,” Leonard said. “When Carter swam, it looked effortless. He was so talented, but so humble. He was a very versatile swimmer, as well. I would challenge him to swim the events that no one was really a fan of, and he would accept my challenge with a huge smile on his face. Then he would break the school record in it.”

According to swimming records kept on Hampden-Sydney’s athletics website that were updated at the end of the 2016-17 season, Cole holds the school records in the 400-yard individual medley (IM), the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard IM.

The site also notes he contributed to the school-record times currently held by the 400- and 800-yard freestyle relay teams.

Cole was instrumental in helping the Tigers defeat Randolph-Macon College for the first time. They beat the Yellow Jackets by 34 points to claim second place at the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) championship meet in early February.

For his efforts as a freshman, Cole was named to the All-ODAC third team.

“I knew he was a ‘one in a billion’ swimmer from the moment I met him,” Leonard said.

A contributing factor to that glowing description was his tremendous work ethic, noticed by his coach and his teammates.

“Carter was, by far, one of the hardest workers on the team,” said senior Hampden-Sydney Swim Team Captain Ryan Mitchell. “Not once had Carter ever complained about a hard practice or a bad day, because it wasn’t like him to do so.”

Cole drew just as much praise, if not more, when Leonard and Mitchell described him as a person overall.

Mitchell said that when Cole first visited H-SC as a high school senior, “I had the honor of being one of the first people to meet him and his incredible family. That evening I knew that he would change my life in a positive manner, and he did. Although I’ve been here for four years already, Carter taught me so much in the time I had with him this past year. Every positive adjective in the world simply can’t be enough to describe Carter. He was an amazing teammate, brother, role model and young man that will forever be remembered.”

Noting he was quiet and reserved when she and the team first met him, “once we got to know him, he was just such a character. That wild, chlorinated hair and his endless smile were the absolute best. He was sincere, caring, funny, talented, goofy, intelligent and driven. We were all so blessed to be able to share the little bit of time with him that we did. One season with Carter will never be enough.”

Leonard added that “our team is keeping Carter’s parents and his brother, Lee, in our thoughts and prayers. We can never thank them enough for allowing us to be a part of his life.”