Denied a Freshman Season at New Mexico, Maddy Archer Shifts Focus to Canadian Trials

Photo Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

If 2020 taught Maddy Archer anything, it’s not to get too invested in futures that might not come.

Archer is excited at having the 2021 Canadian Olympic Trials in her sights, nabbing spots at the invite-only meet in the 800 freestyle and 1500 freestyle. But as the setting of a recent interview – her home in Ottawa, when she should’ve been in the heat of a college season at the University of New Mexico – indicates, plans can change.

“It is a lot different because anything could happen because Swimming Canada has reserved the right to change it or cancel it at any time, so I’m a little bit nervous about that,” Archer said last week via Zoom. “But I’m also excited to hopefully be able to compete.”

Maddy Archer

Maddy Archer; Photo Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

If that doesn’t come to pass – Archer spoke to Swimming World before Swimming Canada postponed Trials to May and provisionally nominated six swimmers to the squad for the Tokyo Olympics – it would be the latest obstacle that Archer has tried to take in stride.

A member of the high school class of 2020, Archer hasn’t had the last 11 months she’d hoped for. She was in Arizona at an altitude training camp with her club, Nepean Kanata Barracudas, last March when the dominoes of COVID-19-related closures started falling. She returned to Canada but didn’t get back into the pool until July. It wasn’t until the late fall that she was back to the usual distance workload of nine workouts and 18 hours a week in the pool, a particularly difficult challenge for a distance freestyler/individual medley specialist.

Archer, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, who moved to Ottawa at age 16 and graduated from John McCrae Secondary, spent the fall at the University of New Mexico. But the Lobos didn’t compete in that semester. On Jan. 13, the school announced it wouldn’t pursue meets in the spring either, halting the program for the season and redshirting all athletes on a roster comprising swimmers from nine countries.

“I was sad to hear the news for the girls that had gone back and were ready to compete and do their thing, and honestly I would’ve loved to compete,” Archer said. “I was excited to contribute in Mountain Wests with my friend Josie (Carpenter). I was really excited about that. But it’s just the whole situation, it was better to just not compete given the circumstances of the training that we had there.”

With Trials looming, Archer had taken herself out of the picture, staying in Canada to train from late November on. While she’s missing her first chance at the college swimming experience, she’s making the most of it.


Maddy Archer; Photo Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

“Getting back into it was really hard, but I think overall, even though it wasn’t the best situation, it definitely gave everyone the chance to work on different life skills, work on mental health, that kind of thing,” she said. “I know it definitely gave me that chance, so that was kind of nice. But it was definitely weird from the swimming aspect, not being in the pool after doing basically 14 years of swimming all the time.”

Archer has had to adjust, but she’s not alone. Her usual training group at NKB has been culled from around 25 to just five, among them fellow Trials invitees Megan Wheeler and Mia Zahab. Zahab, like Archer, cut short her season as a sophomore at Washington State. Five NKB swimmers (two men along with the three women) were among the top-20 invitees to Trials.

Archer is a longshot for the Games, seeded 17th in the mile and 20th in the 800 free. She finished 10th and 11th, respectively, in those events at Trials in 2019. She’s a little concerned about her dearth of recent racing, with just a time trial in practice in December before she was fully back into the full swing of distance. If Trials happen in the spring, she’ll be looking for additional racing to prep.

But behind it all, Archer knows she’s at the beginning of her college career. A silver lining in all the obstacles is the hope of better days post-pandemic.

“It’s going to get better from here on out, which is what I keep going in the back of my head,” Archer said, “that it will get better and we’re not always going to be in this situation of uncertainty and weird training times and not training enough.”