Men’s swim sets sights on repeat title


The Whitman College men’s swimming team has been faced with the task of defending a championship, one of the most difficult things to do in sports. In the past, Whitman had been able to play up their position as the underdog and fight their way to the top under the radar, but this year is a different story. The Missionaries are now the team to beat, and with that comes a new set of challenges. Every team now has their matches with Whitman circled on their calendars, ready to take their best shot at the champs.

As an underdog in the past, the team could be satisfied as long as it was improving season-to-season. But with a conference title now under their belts, the team has reached the point where anything less than another title may seem like a step backward. Coach Jennifer Blomme spoke to this mentality earlier in the year.

“We discussed what we learned as an underdog sort of chipping away year after year at the top and what we learned from finally getting there. We’ve had a lot of opportunities and are continuing to reflect on that process,” Blomme said. “Our main intent is to take those lessons about what it means to rise to the top and what to expect from ourselves every day, and to expect things out of each other in a way that is both supportive, yet also sets high expectations. If we can do that things will fall into place.”

Whitman is off to a strong start defending the title, taking Coach Blomme’s advice to heart. Keith Nussbaum, a sophomore captain, spoke to the difference in this year’s season compared to 2014-2015.

“The season is off to a very strong start for our team. The conference looks so much different this year in terms of competitiveness, and while we have some big shoes to fill after graduating a successful group of seniors last year, I’ve noticed a lot more people stepping up and putting in some great work this year,” Nussbaum said. “Our biggest goal is to hold on to the conference championship title, and we are certainly on the path to do so.”

The Missionaries look to be in a position to go for the repeat, having won all four conference meetings so far. Whitman is also just returning from The Clan Cup, hosted by Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, where both the men and women finished third overall. Some highlights from the cup include Jared Sears finishing third in the 200 meter backstroke final and Cole Weinstein finishing third in the 200 breaststroke final.

The Missionaries now enter a bit of a reprieve in their schedule, with no meets until Jan. 16. Will Erickson noted how this time will be key for the team as they head into a hectic final schedule following break.

“Now our team is looking forward to a break in competition to focus on putting more time into the pool and gym in order to prepare for our meets in the spring where things really start to heat up,” he said.

Though undefeated in conference contests so far, things will certainly heat up after winter break, as the second half of the season involves meets with the similarly undefeated teams from Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth. Those teams, both eyeing the target on Whitman’s back, will be the teams to beat for the Missionaries if they hope to continue their run at back-to-back titles. The men seem to be doing a good job of handling the pressure that comes with being at the top of the conference, and the experience gained from winning last year should prove valuable heading down the stretch this year.