Editor's Note: This article appeared in The Eagle's October 2020 virtual print edition.
“King Tut.” That is the name her teammates chant before the start of the race. It comes from a chance encounter during her freshman year, when two teammates spotted her with her arms crossed and her curly hair up like a pharaoh’s headdress. However, unlike the late pharoah, Eleanor Felton is known for being a swimming machine.
Felton, an American University junior, has her name all across the record books.
Speed was the theme of her sophomore season. After Felton broke AU’s 100 meter butterfly record by 0.09 seconds, her coaches knew that the season would be special.
Assistant Coach Garland Bartlett said that even though the signs were there when the season first started, Felton only became more dominant as the year progressed.
“Really second semester is when she started to shine,” Bartlett said.“She just blew it out of the water at finals.”
Felton described herself as a sprinter. Originally from small-town Duanesburg, New York, she did everything from gymnastics, to dance to running. In sixth grade, a chance encounter at her local YMCA altered her athletic career forever.
“They were having an open house, and the swim coach asked my friend if she wanted to swim. My friend asked if I wanted to come try out,” Felton said.
As it turned out, swimming was a natural fit.
During her freshman year, Felton won the AU women’s swimming Rookie of the Year award and qualified for the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. Felton was also named the 2019-2020 women’s swim and dive MVP by The Eagle’s sports staff.
Felton’s peers say she is mercilicess when it comes to competition, unlike her personality outside of the pool.
“She’s like the quietest, easiest going person, but she swims like she’s a ruthless killer,” teammate Luke Bennett said.
However, this description is rather misleading. When you meet Felton, the so-called “ruthless killer” is nowhere to be found.
Felton isn’t a killer. She’s a planner. She makes sure that her feet are set just right in the starting block and that she gets the right force for her breakout. Felton doesn’t have time to think about the record books before a race. It only slows her down.
Despite her accomplishments, Felton is modest and one of the nicest people you will ever meet, according to Bartlett.
“I love to talk about Eleanor,” Bartlett said. “Eleanor is such an incredible athlete, competitor and trainer, but she is the nicest human. Always looking after her teammates, always working hard and she is very selfless.”
Bartlett said Felton is a natural leader who played a pivot role in recruiting and integrating the freshmen. This is especially important in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, where Zoom calls are the only way to stay in touch with the entire team.
Felton is in D.C. this semester, living in the team’s house and trying to stay in competition condition. She hasn’t been able to get in the pool for months, and doesn’t know what the upcoming season will hold, if it happens.
“I don’t have any goals,” Felton said. “I’m just going to swim, do my best and see how it goes.”