Rory Mitrik Staff Writer
Making the final push off the wall, coming down the last 100 meters with a grace and ferocity unmatched by any other swimmer in the water today, at least four body lengths ahead of second place, and with the last few lengths to go, the winner is…
The fact is that you could insert just about any of the Bearcat swimmers into this foreshadowing tale of victory, and there is a great chance that you would be correct. The SVC swim team is poised to have a record-breaking and PR (personal record) filled year, with the season opener just around the corner. Since the conclusion of the Summer Olympics in London, SVC swim fans likely cannot help but think ahead at what the Bearcats will be able to accomplish in the Resnik Pool this season. Sophomore Zach Ligus could be the college’s version of five-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte, and junior Alyssa Taylor might outshine four-time 2012 Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin.
A look back to last year gives even more reason to expect great things this time around. Taylor provisionally qualified for the NCAA National Championships in the 100 butterfly with a time of 57.60 seconds. She finished in second place and has her eyes set on first place this season. It was the first time in school history that a Bearcat swimmer provisionally qualified for the national championships in any event.
Senior swimmer Mary Kate Kenna said, “The girls team has a lot of potential, and we have been working hard in the pool for the past three weeks. The incoming freshmen have proven themselves to be good additions in practice so far, and we look forward to Alyssa Taylor having a great season again as well.”
Senior Jayna Cline agreed with Kenna, adding, “We’re looking forward to a great season this year as we have a team full of extremely talented lady swimmers. We’ve gotten in the water early and are working hard in and out of the pool to show the other teams what we can do.”
I had the opportunity to sit down with two of the swimmers on the girl’s side to get a quick lesson on the events of swimming and a glimpse into the team’s overall unity. Sophomore freestylers Paige Pecora and Sarah Robbins have been swimming for years and were able to help me, the land-faring animal that I am, learn what it means to be a swimmer at SVC. Amidst their enthusiastic outcries and boasting about the team they love, the girls had a lot of valuable input. Pecora was able to get some swimming lingo straightened out with me; I now know that the events fewer than 200 meters are referred to as “sprint events” and longer events are called “distance events.” Pecora competes in the 50, 100 and 200 meter freestyle races. Also, in a relay, the last swimmer to go who is swimming freestyle is called “the anchor.”
Robbins explained that other events include the backstroke, the breaststroke and the butterfly, and all four comprise a medley. There is also an Individual Medley (IM), which has a single swimmer doing 50 meters of each event. The longer events are the 500, 1000 and 1650 (1 mile) meter.
Junior Matt Linebaugh holds the 50 meter freestyle school record and is excellent at the Individual Medley. Senior Casey Whittaker took a year off and is poised to keep on Linebaugh’s tail in the 50-meter freestyle. The girls medley includes standouts Senior Katie Custer in the freestyle, sophomore Jess Smrekar in the backstroke, senior Alexis Milinski in the breaststroke and sophomore Molly Ruffner in the butterfly.
To show off their team and school spirit and encourage a quick finish, the current swimmer’s teammates sing the SVC alma mater. Team bonding is also essential for morale. Team breakfast happens after 6-8 a.m. practice on Thursdays, and team dinner is a staple every night.
The game “Assassins” is the most popular game that gets everyone on the team involved. Pecora explained that, “everyone gets a target, you “kill” your target with a weapon—for example, snowballs, pool noodles, spoons, water, socks—and you ‘hit’ your person. Some safeties exist, like singing ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’ holding jar of peanut butter or wearing cap and goggles, but classrooms, and library are off limits.” Additionally, an intramural volleyball team is formed every spring to promote unity during the offseason.
The team goals this semester include once again receiving the sportsmanship award as voted by their PAC opponents and increasing the number of SVC swimmers named to the All-PAC team; last season, 9 made all PAC second team and 2 made first team.
The opening meet of the season will be November 3 at Grove City College at 1 p.m.