Alumni dive back in at annual meet

Tristan Gavin

At the annual Whitman alumni swim meet on Saturday, graduated swimmers got back in the pool to test themselves against the 2012-13 Missionary team.

A swim team alumna joins a relay at Saturday alumni meet. The informal event allowed the use of flippers for alumni. Photos by Halley McCormick.

Current swimmers lined up in even lanes and alumni in the odd lanes, but for most it was a swim down memory lane. Alumni sported familiar attire, although they augmented their attire by wearing fins on their feet in an attempt to make the event competitive.

The fins not only showed the growth of the program and alumni’s struggles to keep pace, but also reflected the lighthearted nature of the event.

“It is always a really fun meet,” said junior Claire Collins, who participated in the event for her third time.

While the event marked the first time back in the pool in a long time for most alumni, it was the accumulation of weeks of training for the current swimmers.

“It was a great chance to get a feeling for where we stand,” said Collins.

For the first-years, it was also the first time competing alongside their upperclass teammates.

Kendra Clinton ’16 at the block

“We have been training together and hanging out all year, but that was the first time competing together in front of a crowd,” said first-year Cameo Hlebasko.

Robby Dorn, a first-year who only started swimming three years ago, was impressed with the attendance.

The meet served as an introduction to the swim season and the meet format. For a first-year like Dorn who has relatively little experience, the afternoon offered insight to the expectations of collegiate swimming.

“It was great to see all the support. I hope that people continue to come out when we really get going,”  said Dorn.

The crowd, which mostly consisted of parents and students, was given extra entertainment when the first-year swimmers put on a show that Hlebasko called “her brainchild.” The first-year women put together a well-choreographed dance routine that included an aquatic performance by the men.

Although dances may not be a typical swim-meet norm, it is a tradition that the swim team honors every year at the event. The dance offers a chance for the first-years to join in a team-building activity that allows them to put their creative minds together.

The traditions are part of what brings alumni back year after year. The swim team has a history of success and community that defined past and present students’ experiences at Whitman College, as evidenced by Saturday’s festivities.

Alumnus Tim Welch showed off his dancing skills to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” during the meet.

The swim season picks up speed with a pair of home meets against Linfield and Willamette on Nov. 2 and 3, respectively.

“That is going to be the first big weekend of the year,” said Hlebasko, who joins a women’s team that broke several records last year en route to a third-place finish at the Northwest Conference championships.

“We graduated some great leaders, but have a core of seniors and a lot of [first-years] and sophomores to be excited about,” said Collins of the 2012-2013 team. The Missionaries look to build upon last year’s success and compete for a conference championship.

The men’s team placed second last year and have the senior leadership to give reigning champion Whitworth University a run for its money. The team’s camaraderie and strength are a combination that may have opponents resorting to fins to keep up.

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