Swim & Dive works to overcome injury, team-size challenges

Since October the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams have been spending over 12 hours a week in the pool and weight room in preparation for the MIAC Championships on Feb 19-21 at the University of Minnesota. “It all comes down to one swim, a minute or two in the water, after hours and hours of practicing, so we really have to prepare in every aspect,” Peter Bertel ’17 said.

The team prepared by taking its annual training trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida from Dec 31 to Jan 6. The Scots’ first training session totaled 10,000 meters with minimal rest between 100 meter reps. “Our swimmers tackled a swim set that I never have presented them with before…this is a tough set both mentally and physically, and I am proud to say they really embraced the opportunity,” Head Coach Beth Whittle said.

In addition to swimming six hours a day, plus lifts and core workouts, the trip provided an opportunity for the team to grow closer. “[The] training trip is when you start to realize how close the team really is,” Alese Halvorson ’15 said. “We literally spent every waking moment together which was fantastic. It’s a lot of work, but it pays off later on.”

Unlike many teams at Mac, there isn’t a functional divide between the men’s and women’s programs. They do everything together as one unit. “It doesn’t feel like we’re two different teams except when we don’t score against each other at meets; that’s the only time we notice,” Halvorson said. “It could not be a better environment,” she added. The men and women practice together and get to know everyone very well because of the small size of the team.

One difficulty of being a winter sport is that much of the junior class is either leaving or returning from studying abroad at the start of the season. This proved especially impactful this year, as juniors make up more than one third of the team and there are only two seniors, both women. Each year the team has to adjust to a slightly different dynamic after this transition.

For the men it is also a transition year, primarily because of their lack of seniors on the roster. Instead, leadership responsibility fell to Bertel and Ben Kromash, who is now abroad. “Alese [Halvorson] and I knew what we wanted to do and what expectations we had as captains, but we were unsure of how it would go over with the boys. They totally stepped up to the plate though and it has been a fantastic season,” Maggie Joyce ’15 said.

One meet that the team always enjoys is its annual dual against Grinnell. Grinnell outnumbered and outscored Mac this year, but it was still fondly remembered as the senior sendoff. “They’re a really great team, but also friendly and almost as quirky as us,” Joyce said.

This year injury and illness have been obstacles in team mentality and success. “Injuries affect our morale. Our team isn’t very big to begin with so when we lose swimmers it’s really hard,” Bertel said.

Another challenge has been adjusting to two-a-day practices during the start of the semester, an unfortunate necessity for the team due to the differing scheduling of meets and an earlier start of spring semester compared to previous years. “Swimming is a big time commitment, but it’s very necessary for the sport in order to be competitive,” Joyce said, “and I’m definitely willing to give my time and I know my teammates are too.”

Due to the small size that characterizes Macalester’s Swimming and Diving program, the team focuses mostly on individual goals and achievements. “Improving your time, improving a certain stroke, working on technique are some things we work towards. We have much more individually-oriented goals which is really nice when you’re juggling so many things,” Halvorson said.

Some noteworthy personal performances by women have come from Smaranda Georgescu ’17, Halvorson and Kaia Lund ’18. “Divers Molly Lloyd ’18 and Anik Regan ’17 have both qualified for the MIAC Championships, which is a terrific accomplishment for two first-year divers,” Coach Whittle said. Regan is especially busy this winter, as she also competes in sprints for the Women’s Track & Field team.

On the men’s side, Ian Lock ’17, Sam Gleason ’18 and Bertel are athletes to watch. “They have all been very consistent and hardworking in training sessions and have been depended on for their contributions in the pool,” Coach Whittle said.

At this point in the season, with the Conference Invitational on Feb 6 at St. Thomas, the team is looking to overcome injury and swim its fastest times. Since Whittle has been the coach the team has not attended this meet but due to this year’s late timing of the MIAC Championships it was in the best interest of the team to have another race. “We have two goals. One is to focus on just one or two events that each person wants to work on and refine before the MIAC Championships. The other is to support those who have yet to qualify for the MIAC Championships, with the hope that we
will qualify everyone on our team,” Coach Whittle said.

In order to swim at the MIAC Championships, each athlete must swim a qualifying time in at least one event. Last year everyone on the team was able to compete, but this year a few people still have yet to reach a qualifying time. The upcoming Conference Invite gives them an opportunity to do just that. “We’re all aware of it, we’re all very vocal about our goals, and we pull for each other when someone is going for their best time. It’s really important for all of us to swim at the MIAC Championships together,” Bertel said.