By: Cole Schott ’17
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.