Monthly Archives

March 2009

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

A Fitting End to This Great Season

I’m sure you’ll all understand, but I’m honestly just too exhausted to write an extensive blog tonight.
Suffice it to say, that we ended on a very, very good note.
Becca improved both her time and place, finishing 14th in one of the toughest, deepest events in the meet…the 100 Free.
And then Peter Mullee finished second in the 200 Back by 14 one-hundredths, swimming an incredible race and finishing under the National Record. It was a joy to watch, and as aggressive and gutsy a swim as you’d ever want to see.
What a way to conclude our incredible season.
More tomorrow…or maybe Monday.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

The Last One Takes Care of Itself

One more session to go, but a fun session it will be. Peter qualified 5th in the 200 Back, with a lifetime PR, School Record, and All-Time MIAC Record. He just swam great…going out after the race and hanging really tough in the second 100. He has really settled in to a great meet…and tonight should be a great race.
Becca made it back in the 100 Free, and the consolation heat should be anyone’s race, with only about .4 separating Becca from 10th. She is a great finals swimmer, and a great racer, so tonight’s race will be like Peter’s…just have fun and GO, GO, GO!
Jena and Erik swam tough, but were not expected to crack the top 16. They end their incredibly successful seasons at the conclusion of today’s prelims. Congratulations, All-Americans, MIAC Record Holders, MIAC Champs Jena Root and Erik Huls!

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

“The Most Supportive Fans in the Country”

Yesterday, just before Erik Huls’s heat in the 100 Fly finals, we got to talking about the parents in the stands, supporting our little gang of four at the meet.
Remember, Thursday at the Nationals was a day off for Jena, Becca, and Peter…Erik was the only one swimming. But, there in the stands, cheering, were the Mullees, Judy Ney, and John, Debbie, and Jessica Root. Of course, Erik had his family there, with his sister, girlfriend and family friend with their hand-made t-shirts.
We noted that, even though they didn’t have a child swimming that day, they were still there, supporting, every session. And it prompted Peter to say, “We have the most supportive fans in the country.”
And while it may be difficult to quantify, Peter’s sentiment certainly isn’t wrong.
As the coach of these wonderful kids (and 50 more that didn’t qualify for this meet, but were in the stands making a LOT of noise for Jena and Peter tonight), I see that these kids aren’t quality people–with big, generous hearts–by accident. They learned from the generous moms and dads in the stands. And as proud as I am of these four, and the 50 they also represent, I am also very happy for the parents who get to enjoy these moments of surpassing pride and love as these record-breaking, All-American swimmers make their mark…also among the best in the country.
Peter said it best, as he went down to swim his off-day warm-up, “It’s awesome.”

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

More Ups and Downs

With Peter and Jena swimming their 100 Back finals tonight, we had high hopes. But, before the warm-up, Jena’s new Speedo LZR suit developed a weakness along a seam, and looked like it could go at any minute. Some SuperGlue closed the inside, but the weakness was at a spot where you wouldn’t want the suit to let go as you jumped in the water for the start.
So Jena made a difficult, but courageous decision to downgrade to a Speedo Pro, a lesser level suit, and try to make up the difference with heart and determination. It wasn’t enough…but she will come out of the 2009 NCAA Nationals with the 2nd fastest time in the meet, and one of the fastest 100 Backstrokes ever recorded in NCAA history…a remarkable 55.89.
Peter Mullee also made a courageous decision, to just “go for it” in his 100 back. He was first off the start, first at the wall, and was never challenged. He won the consol heat going away, and posted the 5th fastest time in the meet.
We’ve had our share of adversity in this meet, but in the end, the kids have always been a little tougher than the challenges, and done very, very well.
Tomorrow, we wrap up the season with some 100 Freestyles for Becca, Jena, and Erik, and Peter’s 200 Back, where I know he will “go for it” one more time, this time with a lot more confidence and the determination we have come to know so well.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Jena Has a Monster Swim

Jena Root took on the #1 seed in the last heat of the 100 Back, Olivia Zaleski of Dennison, and the two of them raced to the top two qualifying spots in the event. Jena went out under total control, and then just kept building. She had perfect splits of 27.2 / 28.6 and looked great throughout.
It’s going to be a fun finals…and I get to hand out the trophies for the women’s 100 Back.
Peter got back, but to the consols. Just never quite got his sprint turnover into the race. I know that a good one is still in there, though, and I look for him to shake off everyone else’s expectations and just be the great swimmer I know him to be. He’s a competitor, and there’s no better time than in a close final to just get determined, fire up the Big Heart, and go race.
Becca had a very solid 100 backstroke, considering that we’ve focused her training almost entirely on freestyle…the 100 Free especially. So tomorrow is Becca’s day…but don’t ignore Peter’s 200 Back, or Erik and Jena’s 100 Free.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Holding His Own

Against the best flyers in Division III, Freshman Erik Huls held his own. He repeated his prelim time, within two one-hundredths, swimmming a better paced race, but with a couple of sluggish turns. He was right in the middle of one of the closest finishes in the meet so far: 7/100ths of a second separated a tie for 10th from 13th place.
Last year, Erik was an all-state sprinter freestyler, with a butterfly that was a Farmington HS school record, but not state meet material. But, with a little time in the weight room with teammate Grant Frost, and some serious stroke work, he has improved from being a butterflyer whose time didn’t get out of sections, to posting the 6th fastest 100 fly in all of Division III.
That kind of improvment doesn’t happen by accident…it was the result of a lot of hard work and one of the Big Hearts that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Scroll down on this blog page, and read about the larger Family of which Erik is such an important part.
Tomorrow, Erik gets a well-earned rest (except to take two mid-term exams), and Jena, Peter, and Becca all take a run at the 100 Back. Jena is the #4 seed, Peter #3, and Becca is back a bit at 31st, but only half a second out of scoring. It’s going to be fun…again!

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Erik’s 100 Fly Earns Another Swim

Erik Huls, the top first-year swimmer in the 100 Fly, qualified 10th in a tough 100 Fly. Erik is the lone Freshman in the champ or consolation finals.
He had a great start, and was out incredibly fast (maybe a little too fast–I had 9.99 on my stopwatch) and he was 22.47 at the 50. The last 25 was solid, but a glide into the finish gives us the real hope that he’ll likely be under :49 in the finals tonight…an unbelievable swim for a Freshman (or any class, for that matter).
Erik already holds the MIAC Meet Record, and Matt Zelen’s All-Time MIAC Record of 48.86 could be in danger tonight. Remember, Erik dropped a half-second from prelims to finals in the conference meet. And he qualified this morning faster than he qualified at the MIAC Championships.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Another School Record in the 50 Free

The headline is that Becca Ney broke her own school record (again) in the 50 Free last night at the nationals, placing in a tie for 6th in the consolation final.
The fun story behind the headline is, that this 50 Free School Record has taken a real beating in the last month. Hop in the time machine to February 19.
In the MIAC Prelims, in heat 6, Jena Root breaks Becca’s 2008 record, going 24.12.
Two heats later, Becca breaks Jena’s two-minute old record, going 23.81.
Then, a month later, in the prlims of the NCAA’s, Becca drops the record to 23.79.
And tonight, she goes faster yet, breaking the record for a fourth time in four weeks, going 23.77.
And by the way, Erik Huls and Peter Mullee did the same thing in the Men’s 50 at conference.
Erik broke TJ Hardy’s school record in the prelims of the 50, going 20.91
That night, leading off the 200 Free Relay, Peter breaks Erik’s record, going 20.33.
And about an hour later, in the open 50, Peter goes 20.19 to break his own record.
At the end of the year, in the books, it will look like we just set a couple of new records in the 50 this year…but it was a record that was broken seven times by four different Tommies.
Tomorrow, Erik Huls swims the 100 Fly, as Jena, Becca, and Peter have the day off. Can’t wait.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

The 50…Love It, or Hate It.

Ying/Yang
Good News/Bad News
Love/Hate
Hit/Miss
The 50 Free has always been an all-or-nothing proposition. It’s either perfect, and you go fast, or you make maybe one mistake, and you’re slow. Ugh.
Today, we had both the good news and the bad news, as all four swimmers were in the 50.
Becca dropped three one-hundredths, set a new school record, and moved from her 23rd seed to 14th!
Jena had a really solid race, but was in-between on her finish and added only a few one-hundrethds of a second….but moved up 4 places.
Erik was next up, and was unsteady on his start, and was rocking backward when the horn went off. He looked fantastic in the water, but had given up too much on the start. He added a couple of tenths.
And Peter also fell prey to a case of the nerves, and false-started in the 50. Tough to take, because even a solid swim would have put him in the top 8. But despite the disappointment, by the end of lunch he had left it behind as a lesson learned the hard way, and was already looking forward to the 100 back tomorrow.
Clearly, from Becca and Jena’s swims (and Erik’s last 40 yards), we know that we’re really fast. We just need to relax a little and focus on our process…the process of being fast. I know they’ll do that…starting with Becca in the 50 Finals tonight.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

And Then There Were Four

Our last week of the season…it was just a week shy of six months ago that we gathered on October 6th for our first practice together.
About 70 people were on the first roster, a combination of people who attended the organizational meeting, and others we knew were going to be on the roster, but were studying abroad or just couldn’t make the meeting.
Then, by the end of October, the roster settled in at 60…57 swimmers and three divers, with three studying abroad. We stayed at about that number most of the year, until MIAC rules required we select 18 men and 18 women to swim and dive at the conference championship. So, reluctantly, we whittled down to that requisite number (actually, 19 men, as divers count as 1/3 of an entry, because they have only two events in which they can score).
So, about 16 Pathfinders swam their hearts out at the MInnesota Challenge, and 37 went on to make some history at the MIAC Championships.
Of the 37, 13 extended their season by a bit by making NCAA A and B Qualifying Times. As the NCAA entry times were posted across the country, the sheer reality of the mathematics made it obvious that some weren’t going to make the cut. The last to go was the 400 Free Relay, which was the 2nd alternate. As of the last update (March 10), there haven’t been enough (if any) athletes dropping out of the meet to give the relay any hope.
So, we are now a team of four. But what a four it is.
Junior Jena Root is qualified 4th in the 100 Back and will also swim the 50 Free and 100 Free. Her 100 Back time is the all-time conference record. Jena battled a cold, but was on the mend by early last week and the backstroke she is swimming in practice is fast and looks very strong. If you watched Jena at the MIAC’s, you saw her incredible determination and the power she brings to her 2nd 50 without sacrificing any speed on the way out. Her 100 Back is going to be fun to watch.
Sophomore Becca Ney is swimming the 50 Free, 100 Back, and the 100 Free, which she won at the conference meet and takes a 13th place seed into Nationals. While Becca is a superb 50 Freestyler with a great 100 Back, she was built for the 100 Free. She has that long, smooth stroke and the ability to get out fast and then slip into another gear. She has been blistering her dive start 25s in practice and has improved her dive and breakout a bunch.
Junior Peter Mullee is qualified in the top 6 of all his events: 50 Free, 100 Back (seeded 3rd with his MIAC All-Time record), and 200 Back. Peter is the fourth swimmer to transfer to St. Thomas from a Division I program, and all four have swum faster at UST than at their D-I school. Peter has an incredible ability to explode off the start, and we’ve actually altered his breakout technique to shave off some time. He is a fierce competitor, and anyone who wants to finish ahead of him at nationals better plan on being fast, indeed.
First-Year butterflier Erik Huls may have been a surprise to some people at the conference meet, where he won the 100 fly going away, with the 2nd fastest time ever recorded in MIAC history (and a meet record). Erik swam with a big heart, just going out as hard as he could, and hanging on. We’ve refined the race plan a bit, and with three solid weeks of speed work, our stopwatches may need seat belts. Erik is also swimming the 50 Free and 100 Free, two events where he may not yet know how fast he can go.