The 2013-14 Men’s Swimming season marks an important milestone for head coach Elizabeth Whittle: the men who were first-years her first year as head coach are entering their final season with the team. Those seniors, led by captains Clark Jacobson ’14 (Harvard, Mass.) and Nathan Schachtman ’14 (St. Louis, Mo.), anchor a rejuvenated men’s team looking to erase the disappointments of last year.
“We didn’t have the finishes last year that we should have,” Whittle said.
A relay disqualification that prevented the Scots (1-3 in dual meets and seventh in the MIAC last year) from beating Hamline was the black mark on the season and still haunts Whittle and her team. Thus, she has put a premium on mental preparedness and hopes to eliminate such disqualifications altogether.
Whittle trusts that the seniors can spearhead a turn-around. “We have the best leadership that we’ve had my four years here,” she said.
She stressed Schachtman’s accessibility to underclassmen as key to the team’s dynamic.
“He’s been very enthusiastic his first three years and now he’s a very vocal leader,” Whittle said.
Jacobson came to Macalester without much swimming experience and has grown significantly each season. Whittle emphasized how excited she is to watch the conclusion of his Mac career, keeping in mind how much he’s developed as a swimmer.
“Clark’s a lead-by-example type of guy,” she said.
Last season’s breakout star Ben Kromash ’16 (Chicago, Ill.) suggested that the team’s close-knit culture feeds off the fact that of the five seniors, three live together and the other two are roommates as well.
The veteran leadership extends beyond the two captains. Kromash asserted that Domi Lauko ’14 (Whitefish Bay, Wis.) embodies the work ethic and academic dedication that the team prides itself on. All five seniors have contributed to the development of the program in innumerable ways.
“Going through that transition together made our relationship stronger,” said Whittle of her shared first season with the seniors. “They’ve been the foundation for changing a lot of the team’s culture.”
Yet to have the chance to engage in serious competition, the men have spent most of the preseason training and mulling over goals for the upcoming months. Whittle has established the tradition of meeting one-on-one with each swimmer and recording concrete personal goals for the season. These goals stretch from the athletic to the academic, as the team always strives to be one of the top teams in the College Swim Coaches Association, which ranks every Division III school with a swimming program based on their GPA. Last season, the program finished with the 14th best GPA in Division III.
As she looks forward to competition, Whittle most anticipates Sam Stern ’17 (Rosemount, Minn.) in the breaststroke and Kromash in the 500 Freestyle. One of Kromash’s aims for this year is to break five minutes in this event, as he reached a 5:10 mark last year, hitting his preseason goal exactly. He also strives to break a 2:02.68 in the 200 Butterfly, which would set a Macalester record.
Both Whittle and Kromash viewed beating Hamline in their dual meet as one of the season’s most vital missions following last year’s disappointing defeat. Whittle also placed a premium on every single swimmer qualifying for their conference meet.
The leadership and “positive culture,” as Whittle calls it, make moving past last year’s disappointments easier than one might think. Whittle and Kromash agree that the freshmen have bonded with the upperclassmen faster than ever before, and have “embraced the opportunity to help out with the recruiting process.” Having hosted twice the average number of Prospective Freshmen this year, the program is on pace to keep improving.
As the men embark on a new season, Kromash offered these words of optimism:
“Swim season is a long season; it’s about five and a half months, and there can be a lot of speed bumps like shoulder injuries and bad meets, but we’re going to work as a team to not let those things slow us down.”