Last weekend, both the men’s and women’s swim teams scored a victory over Bates for the first time in five years. Defeating Bates was a key goal for both teams this season and this win demonstrates the teams’ improvement.
“The teams [are] excited to know that they could keep up with Bates. On paper, Bates is still stronger than we are, so it was great to actually have [the meet] in the pool and see what the outcome would be,” said head coach Brad Burnham.
There were outstanding performances from both the men’s and women’s team, with the women’s team handily defeating the Bobcats in both the 400-yard opening medley and the 200-yard freestyle relay. The men’s team also delivered key victories in heats such as the 1000-yard freestyle where they dominated the top three spots.
“I think most people probably swam their best in-season time,” said women’s captain Mariah Rawding ’18. “There was definitely the pressure of knowing that we wanted to beat Bates, but we also like to lay it on the line, because [we’re] going to have to do that in three weeks in NESCACs.”
These recent victories can be partially attributed to the teams’ hard work during their grueling three-week training camp in over winter break, which included one week in Florida. The training camp plays an important role for the team, as it allows them to compete as a more cohesive unit.
“[The training camp] is really so much of our season, because first semester, they’re into their lives and classes and different things. They get to see each other for a couple of hours, but they don’t connect as much,” said Burnham. “During the training camp, they spend three weeks together uninterrupted. Socially and as a team they learn to work together and that they’re in this for each other. They’re sacrificing a lot of what could be their really fun winter break to do this together, so that brings them together.”
Despite being a largely individual sport, creating this sense of cohesion within the team is crucial to its success. In addition, the women’s team welcomed nine first years and the men’s team welcomed seven, with these new additions already making a big impact on the team.
“We had a really good mentality this year. The first years have brought a lot of energy and spunk into the group, and they’re all in different training groups, so they’re kind of all across the board. They bring a lot of fire and depth to practice,” said women’s captain Linnea Patterson ’18. “I think that encourages our swimmers, because if your team is fast and you’re swimming with really fast people at practice and they’re pushing you to swim fast, it leads to a good team.”
While enjoying their recent victory, the teams are also looking ahead towards their next meets and competitions, especially the NESCAC championships which are in three and four weeks for the women and men respectively.
Burnham believes the teams could benefit from working on their mentality during the races.
“I believe that they need to work on thinking less,” Burnham said. “They need to get into the habit of trusting that they’ve learned a lot and to stop thinking while they race because you can’t really do both of those things at the same time. You can’t judge yourself, give yourself instructions, think about techniques we’ve been trying to do all season, while also going fast. You need to just go fast.”
The Polar Bears head to Wesleyan today at 5:30 p.m. to face the Cardinals and the Bantams.