March 15, 2010
By Larry Watts
Emily Wong owns three of the top four times in sprint freestyles at Northwestern University and her name appears 16 times among the top 10 times in five different relays. However, the 5-foot-8 senior from Nepean, Ontario has never made it to the finals of the NCAA Championships as an individual.
"That's one of my goals; I'd take anything," says Wong, who swims the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles. "I've been really working hard on my 200 this year because I want to be part of the 800 relay.
"To be honest, I would take anything as far as qualifying. I really think our relay teams have a good shot at making it this year."
Wong, a three-time honorable mention All-American as a relay team member, has yet to get past the prelims individually at the NCAA Championships. She qualified in all three events as a freshman and in the 50 and 100 free as a sophomore. Last year, she came up empty, including the relays.
Wong is closing in on former Wildcat All-American Andrea Hupman for the top time in all three sprint events, but she willingly admits those marks are "in the back of my mind." She stands third in the 50 free (22.55) and 100 free (49.62) and fourth in the 200 free (1:47.84).
"The 200 free is actually longer than what I am used to, but I have been making progress," she says. "It's an off event for me, but I am getting more confidence as we approach the Big Ten Championships."
Named the Ottawa Swimmer of the Year in 2005, she has built an impressive resume in her home country. As a member of the Canadian Junior National team that year, she took the bronze in the 50-meter free and was a member of the runner-up 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams at the Junior Pan Pacific Games. She also represented Team Ontario in the 2005 Canada Games and gained a bronze in the 100 free and golds in both the 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
In the past two summers, Wong has competed for Canada in the Tri Nations Cup. Competing against Great Britain and France in Quebec City in 2008, she captured gold in the 100-meter freestyle and was a member of the winning 4x50 and 4x100 free relay teams. Against Great Britain and Russia in London last summer, she took silver in the 50 free and swam on the winning 4x100 team.
"It would have been nice to have been a member of Canada's A team in the World Games, but it's always an honor to wear my country's cap," she says.
According to Wong, she had never heard of Northwestern University until head coach Jimmy Tierney contacted her. She also fielded calls from Texas, Georgia and Arizona State during the recruiting process, but her visit to Evanston was the only trip she took.
"I guess several coaches in the U.S. keep a good eye on the times in Canada," she says. "I really wasn't sure what I was doing or where I was going to go during the recruiting process, but Jimmy was pretty adamant about me making the trip and I ended up signing.
"When I came down here, the team was pretty small, something like 13 girls. But I really felt the team was very close, like a family."
Wong has certainly seen a growth in numbers during her four years at Northwestern. Now she estimates the team numbers around 32.
"We had a lot of talented girls my freshman year, but not a lot of depth," she says. "We have improved a lot and now we have the depth to go along with it."
Northwestern, which hasn't been a factor in the Big Ten Championships since it finished fourth in 2001, has been slowly rebuilding its program under Tierney. The Wildcats finished seventh last year after taking fifth during Wong's sophomore season.
"Since the beginning of the year we have believed we are capable of finishing in the top four," Wong says. "I know that's pretty high up there, but this team has really grown and the coaches have done a much better job of recruiting stronger swimmers."
A psychology major, her current plans are to enter graduate school, but she has yet to choose a course of study or a school. She is sending applications to the University of Toronto, Queens in Kingston, Ontario and Loyola of Chicago.
"I would love to come back to Northwestern, but it's pretty expensive," she says. "I minored in anthropology and I may pursue that field or there is the possibility of marketing. I did a marketing internship in Chicago last year and really enjoyed that."
As for swimming, she plans to represent Canada in the Pan-Pac Games this summer. After that meet, she will decide the future of her swimming career.
"The four years I have spent at Northwestern have been an incredible experience," she says. "I can't believe how fast they have gone. The group of girls I have spent this time with has been amazing."