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September 29, 2023

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BG swimmer Daniela Carrillo’s love for her sport brought her from Mexico to the US

In the pool, she breaks records. She resets personal bests. She has made it on the All-Mid-American Conference Second Team. She has even swam in the NCAA Championships.

In fact, Bowling Green swimmer Daniela Carrillo reached those 2013 NCAA Championships her freshman year.

But Carrillo’s career in the pool has not always been smooth sailing. She grew up in Hermosillo, Mexico, where she began swimming at the age of five.

Once she hit nine, though, Carrillo found it hard to find the passion in the sport that surrounded her.

“My mom just said that I absolutely hated it,” Carrillo said. “That I would cry when I would put on my suit.”

So, for four years, the lanes felt Carrillo’s absence. She tried other sports, but none stuck with her.

Then at 13 years old, Carrillo’s mother persuaded her to try swimming once again. This time, the pool’s gravity kept Carrillo in its hold.

“I ended up just falling in love with it,” Carrillo said.

For the next few years, Carrillo swam in Mexico where she set a national record for all ages in the 100-meter breaststroke in 2012.

From there came Bowling Green. Assistant coach Mike Shelby heard of Carrillo from other swimmers he knew from Mexico. He emailed Carrillo and they began to Skype along with head coach Petra Martin.

“I was talking to some other schools, but Mike and Petra made me feel really comfortable,” Carrillo said, “and they made my mom feel really comfortable.”

So she made the move to Ohio to follow her dream of swimming in the United States.

At first, the transition was tough, but Carrillo found excitement in the new opportunities. After one year, NCAA championships and MAC championships were now on her resume.

Carrillo’s sophomore year was a little different, though. She struggled being away from family and homesickness set in.

Her swimming suffered, but Carrillo’s determination was not about to fold.

“I just try to remind myself that I’m here for a reason,” Carrillo said, “and that if I just quit it and go back [home], I will regret it.”

She stayed and while she still has off days, Carrillo seems to be a light on the team. Cracking jokes and smiling at practices, she fits perfectly in the diverse team.

“In the group that she is in, they’re kind of a fun group,” head coach Petra Martin said. “They make fun of each other. You know, it’s a good group of kids. They just like to be around each other and she definitely adds to that with the fun personality.”

Aside from jokes, Carrillo also brings a sense of enthusiasm and encouragement to the team.

“She always, after every race, would always tell me, ‘Good job,’ no matter what, even if she beat me by like five seconds,” said teammate Kristin Filby.

Even though Carrillo still has troubles like many athletes, she tries to always let her personality shine through.

“I definitely have my off days, too, when I’m just quiet,” Carrillo said. “Most of the time, I just try to stay positive because I don’t want to psych myself out for a bad practice or a bad day.”

Carrillo stays humble about her success, but she now realizes that she can accomplish anything.

“This year, I’m much more excited,” Carrillo said. “The bar that I set in my freshman year, I definitely want to overpass that and do better than I did, place better and drop some times.”

Her junior year is starting out with convincing results. Carrillo made the NCAA B cut just midway through the season.

“She is a very talented swimmer,” Martin said. “She is a fun kid and raises the level of competition as far as time goes and stuff like that.”

Through the ups and downs, Carrillo found more than just a pool to swim in. She found inner strength and a new family. She did not quit. Her story at Bowling Green is not over.

Her journey in Cooper Pool continues.

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