Swim Team Build Bodies and Bonds in Puerto Rico

For each of the past few years during its winter break trip, the Swarthmore swim team has shown off its artsy side, performing top-notch lip sync renditions of popular songs. With respect to lip sync, this year was no different — team members performed Bieber’s “Baby” and Britney’s “Toxic.” However, with respect to training, much had changed.

 That regime change can be attributed to Coach Karin Colby. Colby, who replaced long-time coach Sue Davis, has an impressive track record. For five years, she served as an assistant coach at Amherst College. During that time, Colby and Amherst had an incredible amount of success. In addition to winning a NESCAC title, twelve students won individual NCAA championships and three were honored as NCAA All-Americans. After her time at Amherst, she continued her success at MIT, where, as head coach, she led her team to the 2015 NEWMAC championship. Now, Colby has brought her winning ways to Swarthmore.

 Like last year, the team traveled to Puerto Rico. However, this year, practices were both comprehensive and meticulously mapped out. Captains Eva Winter ‘16 and Liam Fitzstevens ’17 both noted Colby’s structured style.

“I think we made great use of our time,” said Fitzstevens, who broke the Centennial Conference record in the 200 m backstroke in 2015. “We spent the same amount of time working out this year and the year before. But, I think that we definitely pushed ourselves to a new level because of this efficiency.”

With practices becoming more streamlined, the swimmers are constantly doing something to improve. There is little to no idle time and, as a result, the individuals need to put in max effort for their entire practice. But, when a practice is two to three hours and there are two practices a day, fatigue becomes a factor quite quickly.

“It (fatigue) sets in around day two.” Winter laughed, noting the intensity of the practices and the team’s rigorous schedule.

For the Garnet, the day would start at 6 a.m. After breakfast and a short bus ride, the team would be in the pool and swimming by 7. The practice, which often has a main focus such as speed, turns, or body position, would usually end at 10. After a lunch break, the Garnet would have an afternoon swim and a dry land workout. Finally, after roughly five hours, their training day was done.

“You almost feel [like a professional athlete],” freestyler Josh Foster ’17 remarked. “You’re there to work. You’re not there to play and goof off.”

The work may be the reason why the team is there, but it’s the closeness of the team that inspires the best out of each of the players. Already a close group, the swim team was able to use the ten-day trip to form an even more cohesive unit. By living with one another, preparing their own meals and tackling adversity with each other, the team’s members developed a further connection with one another.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I could get through it,” Winter said. “I don’t think anyone could get through it without knowing that fifty other people are doing something with you and working hard.”

Now, heading back into the conference season, Swarthmore hopes that their hard work will pay dividends. Currently, the men sit atop the conference with a 3-0 conference record, whereas the women are tied for fifth place with a 1-2 record. The men’s team has already surpassed their conference win total from last season (2-4) and, behind Fitzstevens, look as if they will only continue to improve.

Fitzstevens commented, “I think we could win conferences. We’ve trained so hard this year. We’re 5-0 and we have a few meets left. There’s some great competition in the conference. But we’re so strong this year and have a great shot to win.”

Though Fitzstevens might be the one with the records, he cannot win a conference championship by himself. However, in Foster, Andrew Steele ’17 and freshman sensation Jeffrey Tse ’19, it’s clear that Fitzstevens sure has a strong supporting cast.

On the flip side, the women’s team also has a significant number of contributors. In addition to Winter, captains Maggie Eberts ’18 and Jillian Haywood ’18 have posted top times, and Emily Bley ’19 has posted a dominant freshman campaign in the 100 m and 200 m backstroke.

With both teams’ influx of youth combined with Coach Colby’s seemingly insatiable desire to win, it seems as if the Puerto Rico pain could prove to be a winning formula.

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