By Hannah Urano
Coming off an impressive season last year, the Ohio Wesleyan men’s and women’s swim teams are diving in and training for their upcoming season.
Coach Richard Hawes said he is already optimistic for what lies ahead this season after a month of practice. This year’s team is the largest Hawes has coached at OWU.
“It’s exciting because the swimmers are excited coming in,” he said. “It was apparent even before the season started when we had more swimmers coming to practice (on their own).
“For a coach, that’s exciting to see because you don’t always get that.”
The team shares Hawes’ excitement.
“I think that this is going to be one of the most challenging seasons in terms of the amount of yardage and difficulty of our practices, but we should have a very fast team this year,” said senior captain Derek Smith.
Junior Matt Mahoney said this is the strongest team he’s seen during his time at OWU.
“I’m mostly excited about finally having a fast and big enough team to bring some serious competition to our conference this year,” he said.
Sophomore Heather DeHaas said she thinks the team’s biggest advantage is the range of swimmers in every event.
“We have strong distance, mid-distance swimmers and sprinters,” she said.
Smith said he sees the team’s size as an obvious advantage.
“I think our biggest asset this year is the amount of swimmers we have on the men’s team and especially the number of talented underclassmen we have,” he said. “This is the largest the team has been in the four years I have been here, and we only graduated two seniors on the men’s team last year and added five freshmen this year.
“I already know that some of them can go very fast, but I think that swimming for coach Hawes will make all of them faster.”
Hawes said he thinks the team will benefit from a combination of the upperclassmen’s experience and the skilled freshmen’s enthusiasm.
“The upperclassmen are certainly helping the younger kids and the younger kids are certainly pushing the upperclassmen because we do have talented freshmen,” he said. “Seeing them work hard motivates the seniors to continue to work harder.”
Freshman Emma Beale said the training is “fairly different” from her high school program, but she thinks the changes are helping her technique and strength.
For freshman Evan Snapp, the season has so far been a combination of “mental excitement and physical exhaustion.”
Unlike most OWU sports, the men’s and women’s swim teams practice together, making them function as a more cohesive unit.
“One thing I love about swimming is that your team quickly becomes a kind of family,” Beale said. “The OWU team is very supportive. I haven’t been here long, but I know that if I ever need anything in or out of the pool, I have lots of great people I can go to.
“I think this kind of atmosphere helps all of us be better athletes and students.”
In terms of training, Hawes said he is continuing a technique he implemented last season based on the University of California’s swim program.
According to Hawes, three practices a week focus on “muscle confusion.”
He said dry-land exercises are incorporated into these practices, as opposed to doing them after practice. The entire practice takes about two and a half hours.
Smith said getting back into the routine of regular workouts is an adjustment.
“As with every year, the area we need to improve in most will be dealing with the grind of the season,” he said. “Its not easy to go to practice six days a week, sometimes twice a day, and balance all our other responsibilities.
“But making sure we are doing everything that coach (Hawes) asks of us while keeping up with our other responsibilities, like school work for instance, is how we are going to get the most improvement.”
For the men’s team, Smith said one of their goals is to go undefeated in duel meets until they face Kenyon and Denison at the end of the season, the last two meets before the NCAC meet.
Despite their strong competitors, the teams are confident they will be able to improve their rankings at the end of the season conference meet. Mahoney said they also aim to make the Division III top 20.
“While winning is totally out of the question, I think we will be able to improve on last year’s placing,” Smith said.
Hawes said he is optimistic the men will be able to achieve their goals.
“I think on the men’s side we have a chance to move up one or two spots,” he said.
On the women’s side, senior captain Jen Erichsen said her main goal is to make sure the season is productive and enjoyable.
“I want to make sure everyone has fun and accomplishes their personal goals in the pool,” she said.
“Our team (women’s team) is pretty small compared to other teams, but I think that we will continue to grow in the future.”