Jumping up and down, dressed in sweatpants, a sweatshirt and a ski parka, Nathan Mecray '12 might look more like an ice fisherman trying to keep warm than a swimmer preparing for a race. While his bulky winter jacket looks out of place next to a pool of swimmers in skintight suits, Mecray attests that it keeps him warm and loose before a race.
Whatever the routine, it appears to be working.
Last Saturday, Mecray captured four first-place finishes in a non-scoring meet against D-I swimmers from the University of Maine at Orono. Mecray seized the win in the 100-meter butterfly and 100-meter individual medley. He also took first place as a member of the 200-meter medley relay and the 200-meter freestyle relay teams.
Mecray's performance in the 100-meter IM was particularly impressive. He set the new Bowdoin record in the event, beating the previous mark by a full 0.65 seconds, an eon in swimming terms. Mecray eclipsed a mark that was set in 1991 and was formerly the oldest Bowdoin men's swimming record.
"I've put in a lot of work and I like to see it all pay off on the end," said Mecray. "It's those little moments in the meet that make it all worth it."
Setting records is not unknown for Mecray. During his first year, he posted the fastest Bowdoin time ever in the 100-meter freestyle. The same year, he was also a member of record-setting teams in the 200-meter freestyle relay, 400-meter freestyle relay, and 200-meter medley relay.
Head Coach Brad Burnham said that Mecray's competitive spirit puts him in good position for future success.
"Last year Nathan got a glimpse of what he is capable of," he said. "On the first day of the conference championships he really figured out that he could swim fast. He started the year with some times just off his personal best. That fast start gave him the confidence to set some goals that I think are achievable but certainly not lightweight. I am sure his fastest swimming is yet to come."
Mecray is looking to improve his personal best times, but regardless, he may better his placement in races due to a recent NCAA rule change. As of this season, the NCAA banned polyurethane suits in all three divisions of collegiate swim racing.
The controversial all-body suits help swimmers stay more buoyant and hydrodynamic, but are costly and damage easily. According to the New York Times, the NCAA announcement came after FINA, the international governing body of swimming, stated that the suits would be prohibited from professional competitions. The college ban went into affect on September 1, 2009.
However, Mecray never used the suits, citing their expensiveness and lack of durability. As a result, Mecray does not anticipate slower times that other swimmers, who were forced to forfeit their suits, might expect. Mecray joined superstar Olympian Michael Phelps in expressing approval of the ban.
As well as setting new Bowdoin swimming records, Mecray is well respected for being a considerate teammate.
"He's a great motivator for the team," said fellow 200-meter medley relay member Basyl Stuyvesant '13. "He's driven to succeed, but is very humble. He really brings out the best in others."
Burnham affirmed that Mecray was a confident and easy-going swimmer that helped the team even when he was not in the pool.
"Nathan has a great sense of humor and a calm way about him," said Burnham. "He loves to swim fast but I think he enjoys it as much when his teammates swim fast."
With the NESCAC Championship Meet less than a month away, Mecray will still be seeking to improve his times, still encouraging his teammates, and still hopping next to the starting blocks in his puffy ski jacket.