California trip focuses swim team on conference championships

Cole Anderson

Written by Kyle Flannery

For the Whitman men and women’s swim teams, a training trip to California is critical. It is also physically strenuous. Practicing twice a day, they swim more yardage than at any other point in the season. This helps swimmers reach a new level of fitness, but it goes farther than that. In the midst of a successful season for both teams, it’s also a chance to reaffirm goals before the upcoming NWC Championships, come together and bond.

“Being together for ten days straight, there’s not much time for anything but bonding,” said junior women’s captain Johanna Brunner. “Whether you’re on the bus going to and from practice or at the hotel with your roommates, you feel like a family afterwards.”

Aside from the grueling two-a-days, the swim teams also have a beach day. They spend the day bodysurfing, playing football in the sand, visiting the oceanside pier and eating food. It is also a trip to reunite the team after a short winter break. For both teams it is the first time they are back in the pool together after the couple weeks of winter break.

“It helps everyone get on the same page; we know what everyone’s expectations are for the rest of the season and we push each other,” said junior Will Erickson.

For a sport such as swimming, bridging the gap between the individual and the team is essential.

“It’s really hard to put your head in the water for two and half hours by yourself,” said Erickson.

“You can set individual goals, but in the end it’s the team that pushes you, motivates you. Trying to beat other fast swimmers in practice is when you really improve,” he said.

This is why California is so critical to the swim season. Some of it is simply being able to train at a high level and compete with teammates, but another piece of the puzzle is in developing a healthy team dynamic and contributing to something greater than yourself.

“It’s about that ten seconds on the wall when somebody’s totally exhausted, getting down about their performance, and your teammate hits the wall and says, ‘You’re doing great, keep it up.’ Little things like that make a difference and elevate the experience for everybody,” said Head Swimming Coach Jenn Blomme.

In the end, this positive energy is contagious. It bonds them through their work, unites them under one goal. For the men’s team, that goal is to beat Whitworth in the Northwest Conference Championships. Despite the dominance the Whitworth’s men’s team has displayed in conference over the past several years, there is a strong feeling amongst the Whitman men that they are poised to have a historic season. It’s been on the back of everyone’s minds, culminating since last spring, that this is the year. A great deal of this excitement can be attributed to the fact that, from a team that fell just short last year, no swimmers graduated. Blomme believes that this is, hands down, the strongest men’s team in the history of Whitman College.

However, for the men to beat perennial powerhouse Whitworth in the conference championship, it’s going to take spectacular individual performances from everyone.

“It’s not going to happen with just a pretty good meet; it’s going to take an awesome meet,” said Blomme. “It’s going to be every little point. It’s going to be the difference between 16th and 17th place.”

For the Women’s team, after finishing in the middle of the pack for the past few years, this season has been about continuing to improve and focusing on getting better every day. There is a feeling that they too could make this season special.

“Our team has been looking really strong lately,” said Brunner.

Blomme was optimistic as well.

“It depends on who shows up. We’re pretty young, but there has emerged strong leadership from the junior and sophomore classes,” she said.

This past Saturday, in an exhilarating come-from-behind effort, both the men and women’s teams beat Whitworth in a dual meet. It was also senior day for the graduating class of 2015 and the excitement was quite evident; swimmers were singing and dancing poolside long after the meet was over, celebrating sweeping Whitworth for the first time in the history of both programs. With the NWC Championships fast approaching, the results were an unrivaled morale booster.