Men’s swim team grows, women’s team rebuilds

Andy Jobanek

Senior co-captain Ysbrand Nusse entered Whitman as one of only six male swimmers on campus. The team was made up of five first-years and one sophomore. They couldn’t fill all the events, and they practiced in Sherwood in a shallow pool that Nusse called a “dungeon” with no windows.

Since then, the men’s swim team has grown each year and has moved into the bigger, deeper and more technologically advanced Paul Harvey Pool. The team now has 22 swimmers, seven of whom are first-years.

“It’s a really exciting time to be on the team because we’ve gotten better and better every year, and so this year we’re looking to get into the top two or three in conference, which the men’s team has never done before,” said Nusse.

While the men’s team grows, the women’s team has to rebuild. Last spring, the team graduated National Championship qualifier Erin Pettersen and three-time conference champion in the 200-yard backstroke Nancy Alexander. Both were the team’s captains as well. This year, the women’s team has only two seniors, and two-thirds of the swimmers are underclassmen.

However, both sides think highly of their first-year class and expect a lot out of them.

“There’s a lot of good fresh energy [from the first-years],” said sophomore co-captain Lauren Flynn. “These girls are going to be here a while; they’re going to really get into the training and really become a part of the team. As we mature, we’re only going to get faster and stronger.”

“We’ve got a really big group of incoming swimmers. Out of them, some are really experienced mature athletes already and others are a little bit less experienced, but they all come in with a lot of energy,” said Jennifer Blomme, the head swimming coach. “Everyone who’s made it through the tryout period and is here now is really committed and very excited about swimming.”

The first-years displayed some of that energy with their enthusiastic dance routine to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the alumni meet last weekend.
One thing that hasn’t changed for either team as a result of the men’s growth or the women’s rebuilding is the close-knit way in which they train.
“The beauty of the Whitman swim team, I guess, over other Whitman sports teams here is that the men and the women train together,” said Flynn. “We’re in lanes together, we’re in the weight room lifting together: it’s completely intermixed. Even on deck, we’re completely interspersed. The only time we are separated is for scoring at meets and for showering.”

“The swim team, for me, was always my family, and my closest friends were always on the team,” said Nusse.

That team dynamic has welcomed first-year swimmers and has also helped older swimmers. According to Nusse, it grows out of the amount of time that the team spends together. Not only do they train together, but they travel and hang out together as well.

“Swimming draws certain types of people that are often a little quirky, maybe a little bit weird,” said Nusse.

Anyone who has seen the men’s team in nothing but their Speedos at other varsity athletic events would agree.