If you want an idea of the legacy Caroline Baldwin is leaving in her wake at UNC, you don’t have to look very far.
Overlooking the pool deck at Koury Natatorium is a large board named after head coach Frank R. Comfort, who coached the swim team from 1977 to 2007. It displays names and times of all the record holders for events in that building. A quick glance is all you need to see the one name that keeps coming up: BALDWIN.
The senior UNC swimmer holds the school record in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle. She was also a member of the record-setting teams in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle relays, as well as the 200- and 400-yard medley relays. Not too shabby for an athlete whose own coach admits she was recruited four years ago as a raw prospect.
“I remember going to visit her during recruiting,” swimming head swimming coach Rich DeSelm said. “She was fast, but she didn’t have the endurance she has now, and certainly not the speed.”
“She’s a remarkably improved athlete,” DeSelm said. “She’s gotten better every year.”
Her impressive showings continued in Friday night’s dual meet against N.C. State, as she picked up a pair of first place finishes in the 200-yard medley relay and the 100-yard freestyle — along with a second place finish in the 100-yard backstroke.
“Everyone brought their A-game today,” Baldwin said after the meet. “It was so much better than last week at UVA.”
The atmosphere in the building was especially raucous as UNC celebrated its senior night, and Baldwin said that played to the team’s advantage.
“Before the meet started, Emily Slabe and I were saying obviously to get your hand on the wall first, but also to be the loudest team on deck," Baldwin said. "And I thought we did a good job of that for the most part.”
Despite the improved energy, however, the Tar Heels were unable to secure the victory once again, falling to the Wolfpack 186-109 on the men’s side, and 164-136 on the women’s.
“We absolutely respect the quality program N.C. State has,” DeSelm said. “We knew they’d be coming in here with a lot of firepower, and they did. It was a good healthy competition, and I thought our team, as a whole, stepped up to the challenge far better this week than we did last week at Virginia, so that’s a really positive sign.”
Unfortunately for Baldwin, she now has just one competitive event left in Koury Natatorium, the building where she holds so many records, before her college career in Chapel Hill comes to an end.
“It’s kind of crazy,” she said. “I’ll still be practicing until March for NCAAs, so I don’t think it’ll hit me until then.”
As her glittering career as a Tar Heel swimmer nears its end, Baldwin isn’t getting sentimental just yet. Instead, she's focusing on making the most out of her final semester at UNC.
“I feel like every single day we come in and say, ‘Oh, this is the last time we’re going to do this,’" she said. "But I try not to think too far into it and just to enjoy the moments I have left with my class and the team.”
In a couple months, she'll no longer be a member of the UNC swim and dive team. Her legacy, however, will live on — memorialized on the record board hanging on the far wall of Koury Natatorium, bearing her name in block letters: BALDWIN.
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