Macalester swimming & diving impresses at MIAC championships

By Patrick Murphy

Young goes out on topWaiting on the blocks for the start of the 100-yard backstroke finals at last weekend’s MIAC Championships, Nathan Young ’11 was in an unfamiliar position. A disappointing qualifying round had left him with the fifth fastest time going into the finals. After finishing the 100-yard breaststroke finals just ten minutes before the start of the 100-yard backstroke, Young barely had a chance to catch his breath between races. So, what did Young, a former MIAC champ who debated whether or not he even wanted to swim at all this year, do? He won. Because that’s what champions do.

Young won the 100-yard backstroke as a freshman, placed second as a sophomore, and went abroad junior year before he began to question if he still had the desire to swim as a senior.

“Swimming had become manic-depressive for me,” said Young. “All I thought about freshman and sophomore years was swimming. I just got tired of the angst that went along with this winner-loser mentality.”

After plenty of hard thought, Young decided on coming back for his senior season. Swimming is one of the most individualistic sports there is, but Young came back for his teammates, whom he describes more as friends and family than as teammates.

One thing that did change drastically this year was Young’s mentality and outlook on swimming,

“I was much more relaxed this year,” said Young. “I didn’t hinge my personal happiness on my performance in the pool.”

While this Zen-like approach was certainly the right choice for his blood pressure, it remained to be seen how it would affect his performance. As it turned out, quite well. It wasn’t that Young was laid-back in his approach, but rather, he had fun and focused only on what was within his control. He maintained this approach from day one through the MIAC Championships. This is how he recounted the 100-yard backstroke finals:

Anticipating the start of the race, I emptied my mind and just did it- Nike was right. I had the mentality that either it would happen or it wouldn’t.

I got off to a solid start, and with each turn I wasn’t able to see any other swimmers ahead of me in my peripheral. Coming off of the last turn with 25 meters left, I caught a glimpse of the orange and blue flurry of my teammates going crazy. Coming to the finish, I normally count out my strokes before lunging for the wall, but this time was different. It was completely instantaneous. I knew it was close, so when I hit the wall, I immediately looked at the board to see the results.

I had won by two one hundredths of a second. The top three were separated by a quarter of a second. It was the perfect race.

And a fitting end to the best career in recent Macalester swimming & diving history.

Senior-Freshmen combo breaks relay record

Out with the old, in with the new? Why can’t the two just mix? On the Macalester men’s 200-yard medley relay team that’s exactly what happened. The relay team was composed of two seniors and two freshmen. The combination couldn’t have been better. Nathan Young ’11 (backstroke) and Jeff Yamashita ’11 (butterfly) have long been the top two scorers for the team, and Nate Schachtman ’14 (breaststroke) and Clark Jacobson ’14 (freestyle) added some youth to the talented mix.

Swimming in the MIAC Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center last Friday evening, the relay team gelled like never before and crushed the old Macalester 200-yard medley record by nearly three seconds with a time of 1:38.78. The old record of 1:41.03 had stood since 2002.

“We’ve been working to get this record for four years,” said Young. “Jeff and I knew from the first week of practice that this was the year. With Nate and Clark the pieces fell into place. It was a lot of fun with two seniors and two freshmen.”

Already the most decorated swimmer in Macalester history with five individual school records, Young made it clear that his motivation this year was breaking the record in the 200-yard medley with Yamashita, who is a close friend and roommate in addition to being a teammate.

“The 200 medley was my only real goal this season,” said Young. “I wanted to do everything I could to get Jeff’s name on the board. Seeing his face light up when we got the record made it all worth it.”

Yamashita’s story is an interesting one. A water polo player in high school, he had never swum competitively prior to arriving at Mac.

“This has all been a new experience,” said Yamashita. “From not knowing how to swim properly to vying for records… It’s perplexing, really. The breakthrough was symbolic of the journey. While the record validated a lot of personal and athletic growth, the experience as a whole means more than accolades or awards.”

Young agreed, saying “the records will be erased, but we did everything we could to make the memories last.”

While the swimming team underwent turmoil early in the season with the resignation of head coach Bob Pearson, Yamashita and Young remained stalwarts for the team.

“Nate and Jeff are some of the best role models and captains one could ask for,” said Schachtman. “They really encouraged team cohesion, which helped us come together as a team and train harder in preparation for conference. They’re inspiring both in and out of the pool.”

While they both lead by example, Young is more light-hearted, while Yamashita is serious.

“If we were a couple and had a child, we’d compliment each other perfectly,” said Yamashita. “I would make sure he got his homework done and got into Harvard. Then Nate would give him a cookie and tell him to go outside and climb a tree.”

Yamashita and Young hung up their goggles for good last Saturday but are leaving the program with a legacy of commitment and excellence. While both the men’s and the women’s teams lose a wealth of talent in this year’s senior class, the large freshman class with the likes of Schachtman and Jacobson holds plenty of promise for future seasons.

Freshman diver impresses at conference championships

Seldom does a freshman arrive at college and dominate a sport – let alone in a sport as technical as diving. But Renee Jordan ’14 isn’t your run-of-the-mill athlete. Coming off of back-to-back Alaskan state diving championships as a junior and senior in high school, Jordan didn’t miss a beat in making the transition to diving on the collegiate level.

Among the 24 divers to qualify for the finals in the one-meter and three-meter diving events, Jordan was one of only three underclassmen. Diving is typically a sport where experience is everything, but don’t try telling her that.

Jordan had a number of strong performances throughout the season and broke the Macalester one-meter diving record at Grinnell in late January. She attributes much of her success throughout the season to her diving coach, Jake Dunn.

“Coach Dunn pushed me past where I thought I could go, said Jordan. “I’m able to do dives I never thought I’d even attempt. I wouldn’t have the school record if he hadn’t been motivating me toward it all season. I believe in myself more because he believes in me.”

Diving on the biggest stage of her career at the MIAC Championships at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center last weekend, Jordan didn’t flinch.

“The atmosphere was incredible,” said Jordan. “The amount of energy in that aquatic center was intense. The teams, the spectators, the officials… everyone was hungry for the competition. I’m a competitor. I thrive on excitement, and I execute well under pressure. It was perfect.”

On Friday night, Jordan placed fourth in three-meter diving, finishing behind a junior and a pair of senior divers. Despite being a freshman and never having dived at three-meters prior to college, Jordan was the only diver in the competition to attempt a 5235, which includes a back 1.5 somersault with 2.5 twists.

“As a first-year, there has been a lot of pressure to prove myself as a to
p diver,” said Jordan. “I think this dive earned the respect of my competitors.”

On Saturday evening, Jordan was the only underclassman to qualify for the finals of one-meter diving. Once again, she didn’t waver in the face of the more experienced competition, hitting her first three dives better than she had all season- eventually placing second.

Jordan’s performance at the MIAC was extremely impressive, and while she was pleased with her performance, she’s already hungry for next season.

“Training never ends,” said Jordan. “I’ll be on the boards back home in Alaska this summer, and I plan to dry-land train until then. I hope to be back better than ever next season.”

With Jordan’s combination of talent and relentless work ethic, it’s only a matter of time until she becomes the top diver in the MIAC.