It's been quite the freshman year of college for Christian Higgins.
In addition to adjusting to college life on the other side of the country, Higgins and the rest of the California Golden Bears men's swim team recently captured the Division-I National Championship, the team's second consecutive title. "It was really, really amazing. In college it's really different because coming in as freshman you learn from a lot of people," Higgins said. "There are a lot of Olympians. You see how bad they want the team title. The team cares about how everyone swims, and it's an amazing thing."
But that's not all. After a week of rest following the championship meet, Higgins is back to work training for the Olympic Trials in the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
"It's going to be real competitive to get on that team. We've just started getting back up. It's kind of crazy in a sense that our whole year was based around NCAAs and trying to win that title," Higgins said. "You get a week off to recollect thoughts and then you're into the Olympic trials. I'm really excited to see where I'm at this summer."
As a freshman at Cal, Higgins' didn't have the most prominent role on the team, but he still made a strong impression on the coaching staff.
"It is very difficult to come into a collegiate program and be impactful in your first year. That said, Christian did a very nice job by scoring individual points for us both at the NCAA and Pac-12 Championships," Cal assistant coach Greg Meehan said. "Christian is a key part of our talented freshman class. As he matures in his swimming and continues to learn from our upperclassmen, Christian will be a huge contributor to the program."
At the Pac-12 Championships, Higgins came up big for Cal by winning the silver medal in the 200-yard breaststroke and placing sixth in the 100 breast.
"He's just a real talented kid and a hard worker. He's going to be somebody to watch out for," Paige said. "There's a lot of competition, but he's going to continue to grow over next few years. He's definitely somebody we're excited to see how he does and we hope he does very well."
After his first two years of high school, however, Higgins decided to swim exclusively for the Wilton Y Yahoos in order to get the best training possible.
"I wanted to try to make the senior national team, and I thought high school swimming would hinder that," Higgins said. "I didn't want to do it freshman year, but a lot those guys on that team were important to me. (Leaving) was nothing against the high school or anyone on the team."
While growing up in New Canaan, Higgins admitted he didn't always have the same passion for his sport that he now possesses.
"I played a lot of sports throughout middle school. Swimming was my least favorite, but I did it to stay in shape," Higgins said. "In sixth or seventh grade I broke my collarbone playing lacrosse. My dad told me he'd pay me $50 to quit other sports and swim year round. It was kind of just fate."
As a freshman, Higgins doesn't have his major set in stone, but he indicated that he's beginning to narrow it down a bit.
"It's probably going to be sociology, psychology or Middle Eastern studies," Higgins said. "This year I'm kind of figuring things out and seeing what I like."
As a highly-recruited swimmer, Higgins probably could have gone to just about any school he wanted, but the challenge of swimming for an elite program like Cal was too good to pass up.
"It's kind of like being a freshman in high school again," Higgins said. "You have guys who are at another level and you're trying to get to that level the whole time. You're trying to get to that one position every day, and you go from a competitive atmosphere in Connecticut to a whole other level."
The Olympic trials are slated for June 25 in Omaha, NE.