Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Trial, training, tradition: Whitman swim season 2011-2012

With 16 broken records from last season’s Northwest Conference  Championships alone, the Whitman swim team has an impressive precedent of success to meet. However, the 2011-2012 season shows a lot of promise, with an emphasis on excellent technique and a crop of quick first-years boosting team talent. Since the start of swim season four weeks ago, this year’s crop of aquatic athletes has been working hard to make more great strides in advancing the Whitman swim program.

Credit: Marin Axtell

After a weeklong tryout period at the start of the season, the team worked through Float Week: seven days of technical focus on breathing, turns, kicks and hand positions in an intimate examination of the fundamentals of swimming.

“A lot of programs are based on the notion of training and workouts, but I really like to restructure that into the concept of practice and rehearsing skills. Just like a tennis player needs to learn how to perfect a serve, we need to learn how to do a start or push off the wall exactly right,” said Head Coach Jenn Blomme in reflection on week two of pre-season. These first two weeks set the tone for the rest of the year and provide a foundation of excellence for the program.

By maximizing the efficiency of their technique, Whitman swimmers will take advantage of the talent they have on the team. Additionally, the speed of this year’s first-year class: two women and six men: has the team excited for the possibilities of the season.

“The new swimmers . . . are not only the most talented class but also immediately fit right in with the team. You can’t ask for anything more than that,” said Chris Bendix, one of the  men’s senior team captains.

“Not only are the new talents going to score points, but they are going to elevate the entire program,” said Blomme of the first-year competitors.

With the competitive atmosphere among teammates in the pool as they strive to drop their times and take down records, it is surprising how tight-knit the Whitman swim team is. Rather than being threatened by incoming talent, returners embrace the ability of their teammates to push them to greater success in the pool.

“Swimming is an individual sport: you’re doing each race by yourself: but I remember the first meet last year, people were cheering for me. That never happened in club or in high school. At Whitman we cheer for every person,” said sophomore breaststroker Claire Collins.

The Whitman swim team is more than  just a group of swimmers churning the water; their tight bond is expressed in the many team traditions. From the creation of posters for all teammates before the first meet to the echo of the team cheer bouncing off the walls in the locker rooms after practice and lifting to team dinners at Reid,  this is not just a diverse group of gifted students and individuals but a family, united by the smell of chlorine in its hair and the traditions it celebrates together.

“It’s a really diverse group of people, but it must be the long practices and the dinners that make us such a family,” said sophomore Shunei Asao.

This family mentality is reestablished every year with the  annual Alumni Meet. In past years,  the Alumni Meet has been the first splash in the water for Whitman’s swim team as it joins a group of 12 to 18 returning  alumni swimmers for the Family Weekend event. Ranging from last year’s graduates to the class of 1996 and beyond, attending alumni and current swimmers always have in common their love for Whitman Swimming.

“You see a lot of STL: Swim Team Love. It’s something we write on everything, and you know no matter how many years ago that alum  left Whitman, you always have that in common with them. You can always talk about swimming,” said one of the women’s team captains, senior Katie Tackman.

The Alumni Meet is not a conference meet, especially with alumni using their prowess more often than their power to make up for whatever fitness they have lost over the years.

“Yeah, they cheat,” said junior Andrew Roehrig, laughing lightheartedly.

Some alumni use fins and often turn single races into relays. This meet is a great way for the new swimmers to be introduced to swimming in a college setting, get to know some of the legacy of their sport and bond with fellow teammates.

“I am much more concerned with talking smack and getting reacquainted with the alumni than I am with my own swimming,” said Bendix of the meet.

So far  the team’s trend of success has continued after a pre-season victory against College of Idaho. The team looks forward to the Alumni Meet on Saturday, Oct. 22, and its first home conference meet   against Lewis and Clark on Friday, Nov. 11. Another  year stronger, another year more mature and eight talented swimmers larger, this family of athletes looks forward to a great year.

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