2015 ODAC Championship Preview

The Washington and Lee sports information office recently sat down with Head Coach Kami Gardner and members of the men’s and women’s teams to get their take on this weekend’s ODAC Swimming Championships.

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Tapering and Preparing for ODAC’s

By: Cole Schott ’17

Sophomore Cole Schott

Sophomore Cole Schott

In the final days of a long season, every practice carries with it a new sense of urgency. Goals stated as long ago as last February are finally taking shape. The feeling around the pool is restless, but ready. Every element of swimming becomes a measure of time during these closing weeks – one lap, one start, one stroke closer to the ultimate goal. In the life of a swimmer, that ultimate goal comes each year in February. And for the swim team at Washington and Lee, that ultimate goal is an ODAC Championship.

One week from today, the team will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina for its final meet of the season. It’s an exciting meet, as we will be swimming fully rested for the first time this season. Best times will be posted, and the ODAC title will be up for grabs.

The process of preparing for a Championship meet is a fully choreographed art form. “Tapering,” as it’s affectionately known among swimmers, is a month-long affair. The gradual decrease in weights, core work, and swimming – which is unique for each one of us – prepares us physically to perform at our best. At this point, we’re deep in the heart of taper. While our bodies adjust to the lightened workload, we pick our events and the coaches craft a winning lineup. We fine tune our strokes, perfect our turns, and (with bemused looks from friends) avoid excess physical activity at all costs. It’s critical that we each nail these final days; our teammates depend on it.

However, as important as the physical rest is, a swimmer’s mental preparation is equally critical. The countless hours committed to training in the four months before taper are what make us successful. Working through tough meets in October and November, racing well in December, and training hard in January are the necessary precursors to tapering in February. Trusting this training can be hard for a swimmer, but we know we’ve put in the work. All that’s left is to focus on the task at hand.

For the men’s team, this is our first year competing in the ODAC. Transitioning from a mostly Division II conference, the older guys will look to use that experience, as we become a favorite to compete for a conference title. The men’s team will rely heavily on our strong freshmen class, however, and will depend on them for critical relay spots.

This transition to the ODAC presents one benefit that stands out among the rest. The swim team is truly one team. We train and compete together all season. And finally, we’ll compete together at one championship meet. It’s impossible to recognize the goals and accomplishments of the men’s team without citing the role that the women’s team plays in that success, and vice versa. We rely on each other. While each team has strong leaders and deep talent, the energy of our men and women together produces this team’s winning habits.

One week from now, we’ll put our strength as a team to the test. After a long season, it’s nerve-wracking to hang months of work on a few short minutes of swimming. But this team has put in the work, and this team is ready.

Up Next: The Sports Information Office will produce an ODAC Conference championship preview video.

Celebrating the Seniors with Smiles

By: Caroline Hamp ’15

Senior Caroline Hamp

Senior Caroline Hamp

It’s cliché to say that our Senior Meet was bittersweet, but I am here to tell you that bittersweet is exactly what it was – bitter to think that my time as a collegiate athlete is coming to a close, but sweet to be able to share those four years with an incredible team. The six seniors decided to use our Senior Meet to celebrate the last four years instead of dreading the inevitable end. It would be easy for me to get sappy and sentimental, but it is even easier to laugh about all the ridiculous hilarity the team has thrown at us. Don’t worry, the sweet unquestionably outweighs the bitter.

This past Saturday, our Senior Meet proceeded as following: a quick blurb about each of the seniors and their achievements; a line of hugs, high-fives, and slightly too-inappropriate butt-slaps; a bouquet of flowers and a framed picture of the six of us swimming our final lap of training trip; and a tear here or there, but mostly just wide smiles spreading from ear to ear.

The stands were more full than I’d seen them all year; 24 encouraged other sport teams to support us, a handful of swimming alumni visited for the day, and the senior parents were cheering even louder than usual. Despite all of the extra excitement, when the national anthem signaled the start of the meet, it was business as usual. Every meet, no matter how strong the competition or how large the crowd, is ultimately the same, with the same end goal in mind: to swim fast. And fast we swam. The first event set the tone of the entire meet as our women’s 400 Medley relay broke the pool record and the crowd went wild.

The meet continued in fast-paced fashion, and I almost forgot that this meet was anything different from the norm, that it was supposed to be something special. I swam my normal events (and I swam them fairly mediocre to be honest), and I fell into the normal routine of cheer, warm-up, swim, repeat. I touched the wall on my last race ever in the Cy Twombly pool and felt no sudden emotional upheaval. Instead, I felt the usual exhaustion and difficulty breathing that comes with finishing a race.

It wasn’t until almost a half hour later, as the meet came to a close, that an underclassman teammate asked, “So how does it feel to be done?” and that’s when it hit me. I will never have the opportunity to race in this atmosphere – with this loud, enthusiastic team and under the watch of the best (and most observant) coaches – ever again, but as I look back on the past four years, I couldn’t have asked for a better Senior Meet. It was a meet just like any other, but then again, every meet is a little bit extraordinary simply because I get to share those moments with the best teammates and coaches a collegiate athlete could ask for.

And it’s not over. We still get to hop in the pool every day for practice for three more weeks. We still get to race VMI and Ferrum at our meet at VMI this weekend. And of course, there is always ODACs. The most magical time of year is just around the corner, and I can’t wait to see where our last conference meet takes us.

Up Next: The Sports Information Office will follow first-year Noah Schammel to give an inside look into a day in the life of a W&L swimmer.

Florida Training Trip

By: Logan LaBerge
Assistant Coach

The Washington and Lee swimming team traveled to Miami over the break to train and prepare for its stretch run to the conference championships.  The team made a video about their trip.  We hope that you enjoy this look behind the scenes!

Up Next: A senior member of the team offers some reflection in a written entry.

Finals Are Upon Us

By: Mary Gabe ’15

Senior Mary Gabe

Senior Mary Gabe

Here we are, less than a week from the start of exams. I have no idea where this semester went. I would like it back, please.

It’s no secret that W&L’s academics are some of the toughest around, and the final stretch is when things get especially crazy. Papers, projects, presentations, we do it all – and then we get to take our exams.

The silver lining comes to us in the form of Washington and Lee’s Honor Code, a commitment we all make to never lie, cheat, or steal. This means that our exams are un-proctored and self-scheduled. Some departments stick to time slots offered daily and set locations for exam taking, while others hand out tests to be completed wherever and whenever we choose. Either way, we’re trusted to take our exams honestly.

Sometimes, we forget that this is unusual. Most students don’t have the luxury of taking exams in the order of their choosing, at their own pace. Most schools would never even consider administering tests without supervision. For us, this is the norm. Add that to the long list of reasons we love W&L.

Even with the ability to plan our own exam schedules, the end of the semester is daunting. Throw in the swim team’s rigorous training, and we are pushed to the limit at the moment.

We climbed onto the bus Friday morning for the Randolph-Macon Invitational feeling sore, stressed, and sleep-deprived. This was expected. What was unexpected, what makes this team extraordinary, was how we showed up to the pool. We had every excuse to let our exhaustion take over, but at our very core, we are competitors. We arrived home late Saturday night with meet, team, and ODAC records, not to mention all the personal-best times and wins for both teams.

As a senior, you would think that I expect this by now, but it never stops being incredible. This team never ceases to amaze me. Proud doesn’t begin to explain how I feel about my teammates.

Give us all you’ve got, finals, because we love a challenge.

F&M Invitational

By: Logan LaBerge
Assistant Coach

W&L swimming competed in the Franklin & Marshall Invitational on Nov. 21-23 in Lancaster, Pa.  The Generals completed a tremendous weekend as both the men and women finished in second place at the three-day event.  Here are some highlights courtesy of the team.

Up next: A member of the team writes a piece about finals at W&L.