By ANDY LEONARD
The only thing louder than the Eagles players and fans cheering Saturday, Nov. 12 was the unspoken message the UMW swim team delivered in their sweep of Randolph-Macon: team camaraderie and hard work are the keys to winning.
Last year, Randolph-Macon did not have a men’s swim team, but this year they fielded nine male swimmers to compete against Mary Washington’s team of 28. As one might expect, the men soundly won, 126-71. Among the top finishes were the 200 medley and freestyle relay teams, with times of 1:39.17 and 1:31.44.
Despite a close finish last year on the women’s side, the Lady Eagles also won rather convincingly, 129-73. The team had several first place finishes, including, the 200-yard medley relay team of junior Lindsay Ancellotti, sophomore Amber Kerico, senior Kelly Scott and sophomore Jessica Singer at 1:54.39. Ancellotti and Scott also took individual wins, with Ancellotti winning the 100 butterfly at 1:01.99 and Scott taking the 100 backstroke at 1:02.62. In her first time competing since hip surgery, senior Megan DeSmit pushed through her pain to win the 100 breaststroke at 1:10.35.
Senior captain Allie Beckenstein attributes both the men’s and women’s success to their ability to buy into their second year head coach Abby Brethauer’s system.
“[Brethauer] came to a team that had old traditions, and needed to make her own,” Beckenstein said. “It took the team awhile to get used to things, but now we’re seeing the payoff both in and out of the pool.”
Part of Brethauer’s new system is using the CrossFit program for dryland training. The entire team, including the coaches, wake up at the crack of dawn to run, do pull-ups and perform other brutal workouts to get their bodies into tip-top shape.
“Even though CrossFit is really challenging, it’s also a lot of fun,” senior Kristen Sotzing said. “It forces us to overcome new challenges together each day.”
Beckenstein echoed Sotzking’s praise of the new, intense training method.
“There are people who can whip out ten pull-ups now who couldn’t even do one at the beginning of the season. It’s been rewarding,” Beckenstein said.
This might seem like enough training for some, but not for Brethauer’s swim team. After a couple of rough losses to Washington& Lee University and York College, the Eagles are working to strengthen their team identity.
“The team had a wake up call after those losses,” Sotzing said. “We can’t only think of our individual performances. So much of this sport is about camaraderie.”
Beckenstein and the other captains now require everyone on the team to be standing and cheering on the pool deck for their fellow swimmers while they aren’t competing.
“Even if people wanted to rest their legs for their event we told them they had to stand,” Beckenstein said.
In addition to cheering, the team gets together the night before competition to bond. Before their meet against Randolph-Macon, the Eagles went out for food and were told to discuss with a partner the hardest thing they had overcome in their life. Bonding activities and CrossFit have had an invaluable effect on the team, Beckenstein said.
“The bonding coach has us do gives a sense of trust and unity that makes us want to work harder and win,” Beckenstein said.
The swim teams have an unannounced Invitational in early December, but their next home meet won’t be until Jan. 14 when the Eagles host Salisbury University and Marymount University at 1 p.m.