No pool, no problem for Mac's swimmers and divers

By Daniel Kerwin

This season, the members of the swimming and diving team have taken it upon themselves to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.” This refers to the intensity the team is trying to build inside the pool, but outside this pool, this can mean having to eat honey for dinner. While the new natatorium is being built, the teams are practicing in the College of St. Catherine’s Butler Pool every weekday from 8-10 p.m. This may not seem too different from the 4-6:30 p.m. practices of previous years, but the combination of the later practice time and the need to take a van to get to the pool has presented obstacles that haven’t existed before.

Finding time for dinner has become a particularly complicated matter. In order not to eat too soon before practice, the swimmers either eat as close to 5 p.m. as they can or forgo dinner altogether.

This is where having the honey comes in useful. Each swimmer has a bottle of honey beside the pool during practice, from which they take a thumb-full of honey every 15 minutes during practice to give them the nutrients needed to get through their workout. Since workouts consist of swimming for two hours straight, covering a distance of around 5100 yards, inevitably the swimmers are hungry after their workout is finished.

Nathan Young ’11 gave an example to the kind of hunger swimmers can have after a practice, speaking of a time during high school when he ate an entire 16 oz. loaf of bread after practice, all during a 10-minute car ride.

Each team member deals with the problem in their own individual way: some will eat a big lunch, others will rely on protein supplements taken at various times during the day. Since practices are every day of the week and every Saturday that there isn’t a meet, this is a daily inconvenience for everyone on the team.

Finding time for studying has also become an inconvenience to work around.

“It’s generally the time where I start buckling down doing homework,” Seth McIntire ’09 said. “I’m really starting to adjust though.”

“It’s hard between Monday night and Tuesday morning practice. If you sleep straight you get 8 hours, but who does that?” David Brown ’08 said.

The van trip over to St. Kate’s adds to the time-block that practice takes up in the evening, but it also creates other hazards to be avoided.

“We tend to listen to hip-hop to avoid our captain [McIntire] singing along to classic rock; he knows all the lyrics to the classic rock songs,” Hillary Sorin ’10 said.

The van trip itself isn’t a brand-new adjustment since during the spring season the teams had to practice at either St. Kate’s or the University of Minnesota, but even for those who were on the team last semester the coupling of evening practices and the intensity of early season practices has taken some adjustment.

“Last semester it was pretty easy since the building [Leonard Natatorium] didn’t get shut down until the end of January,” McIntire said. “We had a taste of what the scheduling would be like, but we didn’t have hard workouts until now so we didn’t know exactly what to expect, but we’re getting used to it.”

Not everyone had this experience going into the season, though, since many of this year’s swimmers are first years.

“Adjusting to college has meant adjusting to a different schedule, so this is just one more adjustment,” Joe Schubert ’11 said.

There may be a lot of adjustments to be made outside of the pool, but no one on the team is going to let them get in the way of the sport itself. Everyone on the team is fully passionate about the sport; many of them having swum for club teams during high school and some of them for most of their lives.

“Usually when you swim in college you grow up with it, it’s a way of life,” Holly Vander Schaf ’11 said.

“It’s a hard working group, no doubt,” Assistant Coach Gregg Rappe said.

Since practices started on Oct. 1 the team has been rigorously preparing for the season, staying busy with a heavy workload; as Rappe puts it, now is the time the team gets “completely demolished.” Right now, the teams aren’t as concerned with the results of their current meets as they are in getting ready for February’s MIAC Championships.

“I want each individual to be their best, to reach their maximum potential,” Head Coach Bob Pearson said. “I’m not interested in setting time goals, just to get everyone healthy and at their peak performance in February.”

According to Kristin Mathson ’08, as a result of the hard training, the team gets really close, especially during January, when the whole team stays on campus to train.

“In January, we practice twice a day. In between we hang out and watch movies and try to do things off campus,” Mathson said. “Since no one else is on campus we try to a lot of stuff together.”

January will be the first time the whole team will be together. The women’s team’s entire junior class, comprising all of the team’s divers, is studying abroad this semester, in places such as South Africa, Spain and the Dominican Republic. The men’s team is also currently without divers, although swimmer David Brown ’08 is taking a crash course in diving to give the team at least one diver for the time being.

According to Pearson, it’s usual for the team to start its season short-handed since some swimmers are finishing up a fall sport before starting practices, such as Schubert, who started practice this past Monday after finishing his Cross Country season. However, this year’s absences are a particular quirk.

At peak performance, this year’s team has the potential to be very successful. Annie Flanagan ’09’s pool record 1 meter 11 dive score of 328.25 from last year looms over the Butler Pool as the team practices. Rappe feels that this is just the first step for Flanagan and that when she gets back from studying abroad in South America better things are to come.

“She’s a gymnast, she doesn’t like to land on her head,” Rappe said.

The last All-American on the women’s team was Heather Lendway ’06 in 2006, but the men haven’t had an All-American since 1992. Pearson believes that this year’s team has several members with potential All-American ability.

Although this season is proving to be particularly uncomfortable, for swimmers, if it isn’t uncomfortable it isn’t worth trying in the first place. Everyone on the team will keep plugging away until they find their comfort level, and come February, we’ll see how it all pays off.