By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor
Since their first full season of PAC competition in 2006-07, the Saint Vincent College swimming teams have concluded their regular season by traveling to Grove City for the President’s Athletic Conference championships. This year’s championship spanned over four days, from Feb. 15-18, marking the end of a successful season for the Bearcats. While perennial powerhouse Grove City won both team titles, SVC had strong team performances from both squads.
“I think overall it was a great season, we had definitely a lot more ups than downs,” Head Coach Josh Gurekovich said.
The women finished the regular season in second position in the PAC with a conference record of 6-1 and were able to replicate this result at the championship meet. The men had an excellent meet as well, finishing third in the conference with a 3-3 record against teams in the PAC.
Several Bearcats won individual titles in the pool. On the men’s side, freshmen Jacob Dzurica and Nicholas Jackman, mechanical engineering major, won titles in the 100-yard backstroke and 1650-yard freestyle, respectively. For the women, senior early childhood education major Lauren Connors won the 100-yard backstroke. Senior management major Erica Steele set a program record of 52.81 in the 100-yard freestyle prelims before placing third in the finals. Kris Smith, senior mechanical engineering major, noted how the format of the PAC championship leads to school and personal records.
“Racing at PACs, you only have to focus on one event per session,” Smith said. “You can get in a bit later; you can stretch a bit longer because there’s a warmup pool in another section of the building.” Many swimmers will compete in multiple races at dual meets, and the same is true for the PAC championship. Medal-winners like Connors may compete in up to eight races over the days of swimming competition, with many races requiring further prelim swims to qualify. Dzurica summed it up clearly: “You get more quality swims if you can stretch it across a few days.”
Coach Gurekovich noted that athletes can sometimes feel worn out due to the rigors of mid-season training and competition, but that it’s all part of a system that prepares swimmers for championship competition.
“When we compete [in] dual meets, we’re just trying to race, learn race strategies a little better,” Coach Gurekovich said. “We’re hoping to get good times, but that’s not necessarily key. When we’re going in for our conference meet… we rest, we let them have a little easier training heading into it, let their bodies recover a little bit.”
Swimmers also shave their bodies and squeeze into tight tech suits in order to perform at their absolute maximum.
After the PAC championship, the team will take some time to rest and recover. However, that doesn't mean that swimming is no longer on everyone’s mind. Despite having completed his time as a Bearcat swimmer, Smith plans to continue swimming for his home country of the Bahamas, where he was placed highly at Nationals in past years.
“I have Nationals in June that I’ll be gearing up for in a bit… and then I’ll see where it takes me,” said Smith. “If the Olympics is in sight for the Bahamas, then it’s in sight.”
Returning swimmers will take a few weeks off before beginning optional weight room sessions and other physical activities. Dzurica will consider swimming with some high school friends over the summer in order to prepare for a title defense as well as attempts at the 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke titles.
In regard to next year’s teams, Coach Gurekovich suggested that they will remain competitive but look very different.
“We’re graduating eight seniors this year, so losing that group will definitely change the dynamics a little bit,” said Gurekovich.
The men’s team will not have any seniors next season, but will have a strong, young core. Gurekovich is optimistic about the future performance of incoming recruits on both teams and believes that next season the Bearcats can be just as competitive as they were this season.
“It’s just a great group of people, they worked extremely hard all year. I’m really proud of how they performed this year.”