Men’s Basketball is not the only team that has an opportunity to bring a championship back to Swarthmore this winter season. Men’s Swimming had a great regular season record, going 7-1, and is heading into the Centennial Conference Championship Meet this weekend. The team has a good chance at capturing the conference title as they compete against their top rival Gettysburg and the remaining eight teams.
Andrew Steele ’17 said, “We are definitely ready to bring the championship back to Swarthmore for the first time.” Steele is one of the seniors and top contributors on the team. He believes this year’s team is the best he’s been on during his four years at Swarthmore.
“It’s kind of crazy how much we’ve improved over the past four years. We were either fifth or sixth in the conference my freshman year, but we finished second last year and we’re even better this year,” Steele said.
His teammate and fellow senior Liam Fitzstevens ’17 agreed.
“We have a really good team. It’s been an amazing season and we’ve all had a lot of fun,” Fitzstevens said.
He attributes the success to the hard work the team has been putting in, along with top-notch coaching and great leadership from the senior class.
“Our seniors have really helped to demonstrate how to work hard every day and have fun doing it. It’s been the key to our success this year,” Fitzstevens said.
“We’ve been working our butts off all season, and I think it gives us a great shot at Conference,” Steele said.
The hard work was perhaps at its peak during their training trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico at the end of winter break. While there, the team got to escape the bleak and dreary cold of Pennsylvania for some sunshine.
“I’m from Texas, so I really like the opportunity to be outside and enjoy the warm weather,” Steele said.
However, the trip was no vacation, as the team endured a grueling practice schedule designed to get the team in shape for the second half of the season.
“Puerto Rico was in some ways kind of miserable, since we were practicing four or five hours every day, however, it was also one of the best parts of the year. The team really bonds with each other, whether it’s in the pool, stretching out, hanging out and listening to music, or even when we try different recovery methods, like cabbage wraps and cupping,” Fitzstevens said.
When swimmers start to approach their big end-of-year championship meets, they cut back in yardage in a process known as tapering. This process ensures swimmers are well-rested and can compete at peak performance. However, it can be mismanaged real easily, as coaches can sometimes either over-taper, which will result in swimmers actually getting out of shape, or under-taper, which leaves swimmers fatigued at the meet. Fitzstevens thought the team’s tapering process was going well.
“The coaching staff could not have prepared us any better for conference. We were put in small, tailored taper groups that are based on our events and our personal needs. It really shows how dedicated our staff is, since it is not easy to come up with that many different practice plans,” Fitzstevens said.
Gettysburg College provides the biggest challenge for Swarthmore at the conference championships. They handed Swarthmore their only loss this year, winning by a close margin of eight points. The meet came down to the final race: the 400 yard Freestyle relay. With another eight teams to compete against, anything can happen at the championships.
“Gettysburg is a good matchup for us, since we somewhat have opposite strengths. We’re really known for our stroke events (backstroke, breastroke, and butterfly) and medley relays, whereas they have some really good sprint freestyle swimmers, and excel in those relays,” Steele said.
Steele’s best event is the 100 yard butterfly, where he is currently seeded first in the conference, slightly ahead of his teammate Jeffrey Tse. Steele holds the school record in the event. It’s especially impressive based on his background in the event.
“I actually only swam the 100 fly once in high school. My freshman year, however, I was struggling a little bit in my sprint freestyle events, so the coaches put me in the fly, and I’ve been swimming it ever since,” Steele said.
Fitzstevens holds numerous school records, but his favorite event is the 200 yard backstroke. He’s also seeded first in this event at the conference meet.
“The 200 back is really grueling and destroys my legs, but I like how I can catch a rhythm and ride it through and trust the training I have put in all year,” Fitzstevens said.
Perhaps Swarthmore’s best event as a team is the 400 yard medley relay. Both Steele and Fitzstevens compete on the relay team, and are very confident about their chances in the event.
“The 400 medley will really be fun to watch. I think we can really dominate that one,” Steele said.
“Our medley relay is strong. We’re shooting for nationals,” Fitzstevens said.
The team looks strong in many events, including the 200 IM and 200 breaststroke, where they have multiple swimmers who can finish high in the standings. However, Swarthmore will need more than just individual event wins if they want to take home the conference title. Points are scored all the way through the top 16, so it is crucial that all swimmers are able to compete and swim best times. In swimming, depth often trumps top-level talent. However, Swarthmore has both, and seems to have a great chance at bringing a title back to our school.
“It’s going to come down to who has more heart. It’s who can have fun, and race hard, that’s what I think heart is,” said Fitzstevens. The Conference Championships meet is this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.