Only halfway through his Bowdoin career, Mac Routh '12 has already established a swimming legacy. He holds three individual and four team records for Bowdoin, making him the most decorated Polar Bear in the pool.
Last Sunday at the NESCAC Championship, Routh captured his first NESCAC crown in the 50-yard breastroke, posting a time of 26.46 seconds. In the preliminaries of the same event, Routh completed a performance to be remembered, posting a mark of 26.15 seconds that set not only a Bowdoin record, but also a Williams College pool record.
In addition, Routh established Bowdoin records in the 100-yard butterfly (50.51), and the 50-yard backstroke (24.40). It was an impressive series of feats, made perhaps only more impressive by the fact that the record times he was eclipsing were marks that he had set last year. His improvements from the previous season demonstrated the type of development and progression that has helped Routh compete with the best swimmers in the NESCAC.
Routh described that he has felt more comfortable competing in his second year of collegiate racing.
"My first year was a big change from high school competition," he said. "I knew what to expect this year so I was able to focus more on specific parts of my swimming."
This sense of focus defines Routh's attitude in the pool. Due to an ear injury that he suffered in high school, Routh swims with earplugs. The earplugs force Routh to direct his attention solely on his swimming and reduce outside distractions.
While Routh can enter this world of quiet concentration, he notes that he does not lose the motivational influence of cheering because, "the earplugs don't completely block out the noise of the crowd."
Routh is able to enter an atmosphere of extreme focus, but still readies himself to explode off the starting blocks and into the pool. He does this by performing a distinctive pre-race ritual that often draws the eyes of his teammates and competitors. He slaps his body all over. His chest, his arms, his legs, all receive hard slaps that redden his skin and enliven his mind and muscles for the race. He claims that it awakens him and prepares him to compete. As his records suggest, Routh's methods appear to be working.
"Mac is an athlete more than just a swimmer," said Head Coach Brad Burnham. "Swimming in the college-size pools is an athletic endeavor more than just a swimming focus. He is one of the fastest guys in the conference at the underwater dolphin kicking that starts each length of the butterfly races. He has developed it into a real strength."
Teammates Basyl Stuyvesant '13 and Nathan Mecray '12 also mentioned Routh's hard work ethic and supreme ability to stay focused.
Routh has used these strengths to help propel his team to victory. In last Sunday's NESCAC Championship, Routh teamed up with fellow underclassmen Mecray, EJ Googins '13, and Stuyvesant to set new school records in the 200-yard freestyle (1:25.79) and 400-yard medley relay (3:29.72).
Last year, Routh also was a member of teams that set school records in the 200-yard medley and the 400-yard freestyle.
"It feels great to be a record holder," said Routh. "In the last few years there have not been all that many Bowdoin record breakers. Our recent successes show that the team is heading in the right direction. It is a reflection of how hard we are working as a team."
Routh echoed this team-oriented attitude when he mentioned that winning the 50-yard butterfly NESCAC title was "important in helping the team get greater recognition."
Routh was especially pleased that he won the title because it was in his favorite event. The 50-yard butterfly has turned into the one Routh looks forward to most in meets.
"I think it's most fun to sprint," he said. "I like to just go all out."
Routh will be seeking to use his sprinting talent to expand the team's reputation even more if he qualifies for the National Tournament in Minneapolis. With a time that qualifies for B-cut, Routh will have to wait for the waves to settle in championship meets across the country before he will know if he is in.
Burnham elaborated on the qualities that make Routh an integral part of the team.
"Mac has found a great place on the team," he said . "He can swim just about anything short very quickly and that makes him a huge plus for us in dual meets. He also has a real specialty in the fly so he can win races at conference. I am looking forward to the next years as much as these first two because I think he knows the areas he needs to work on to make nationals."
After posting a series of impressive times, Routh is happy with his performances this season, but his hunger for a nationals appearance remains.