On Friday, October 15, we ran an unofficial handful of time trials to test the timing system, and the results were “WOW”…”Holey Moley” and literally raised goosebumps on my forearms. The pool, officially, is fast.
Splits in the men’s 200 Medley Relay were fantastic, with three flyers (not even including 2-time MIAC Champion Erik Huls) were under 24.7, two backstrokers leading off under 25.9, and two anchor legs in the 21s. The women’s Medley was at already at 2:00, with a couple of faster splits in other relays.
The men’s and women’s 50s were amazing for this time of year. Even the 100 IMs were surprisingly fast…faster than these swimmers were at last year’s relay meet, and we’re only two weeks into the season.
All this tells me two important things: That the current team has talent, but also that the new pool is really, really fast! Maybe even faster than we had hoped as we poured over archetect’s drawings this past year.
In two weeks, we’ll host the St. Thomas Relays for the first time since we outgrew O’Shaughnessy Hall in 1999 and moved the meet to the Butler Center Pool at St. Catherine University, and later to Carleton. At that time, we’ll have further confirmation of just how amazing this pool is…the speculative term “wicked fast” may prove to be too mild a descriptor.
We’re into our second week of practice, and the pool is turning out to be everything we hoped for. Coming from the old O’Shaughnessy Pool, and it’s narrow five lanes, the fun of writing a practice (as I did today) for six different sets spread among 12 lanes is fantastic.
The record board is going up today, and we’re getting the finishing touches on the video board. Backstroke flags and our final lane line set up is coming soon. Hard to believe that, at this time last year, we were in O’Shaughnessy Hall, sharing the locker room with the football team (ugh…mud and shoulder pad smell).
Our first set-up of the timing system comes Friday, then the Alumni Meet (on Sunday, October 24th), and then The St. Thomas Relays–back on campus for the first time in many years–on October 30th!
Yesterday, at about 4:00 PM, 50 members of UST’s swimming and diving family joined hands, and after a count of “seven, eight, ready, “GO!” all jumped into the new pool, becoming the first UST students to swim in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex’s amazing Aquatic Center.
After the jump, everyone surfaced, and after a moment of sheer wonder, a spontaneous cheer erupted. This was followed by a swim across to the bulkhead, some jumps into the diving well, some dives off the blocks, and about an hour of just “soaking it in.”
A special moment, the first of many for the family in their new home….perhaps not the “Palace Clubhouse,” as we knew O’Shaughnessy Natatorium, but certainly still deserving of being called “The Palace.”
Stopped by the pool today, and chatted with the Colorado Timing Systems installation techs. They were installing the fiber-optic line to the magnificent video scoreboard. The video panels weren’t up yet, but they were close.
Both techs commented very positively on the pool itself, and one said to me, about his equipment, “You’re getting the best stuff we make.” We (swimmers, coaches, and fans) are very fortunate.
Then, this evening, I got a call from Karly Harrod, our sophomore breast stroker, who was on campus, and happened to walk by the new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex while the video components were going up to create the scoreboard. During the installation, according to Karly, they were projecting video of nature scenes with various animals. She said it was like watching television. Karly watched as they completed the second row, and half the top row before the rain chased her away.
Every detail that is finished or unwrapped makes me more and more appreciative of all those who made this possible…from Lee and Penny Anderson, to the administrators at St. Thomas whose vision matched ours for a fast intercollegiate racing and diving pool (and outfitted it superbly), to the workers who have clearly taken pride in this magnificent building.
The progress on the new pool is nothing short of phenomenal. The tiling of the pool tank is done, and the decks are being tiled this week. The tile and grout will need to cure for a period of a little more than three weeks, but the pool will be ready for water late in August, and should be operational by the start of school.
This pictures shows the tiling progress…the view is from the deck looking into the deep end. Can you see the bulkhead, all wrapped up, hanging from the rafters?
Our parents and fans are going to be excited, too. The view from the two levels of bleachers is going to be unlike any view of a swim meet enjoyed before. Here’s what the amphitheater-like seating looks like from the deck:
And did we mention the Bose -based sound system? The 12mm pixel video board? The state of the art Colorado Timing System?
Wow … what an exciting time to be a Tommie! The Anderson Athletic and Recreational Complex is scheduled to open this August. I’ve had the opportunity to tour the complex several times, and I am so excited and honored that our women’s basketball team will be among the first Tommie student-athletes to call this building home. This new facility will feature resources needed to take our program to the next level. We’ll have a state-of-the-art weight room, team room, our own locker room, meeting rooms and many other wonderful amenities … and our team will be playing the 2010-11 season in a brand new arena! What a fantastic time to be a St. Thomas student-athlete.
Our women’s basketball team is changing and growing as well. We became the first MIAC team in any sport to win three conference playoff road games in one week, and the first ever #5 seed (men’s or women’s teams) to win the playoffs. In an eight-day span, we competed on the road and ended the seasons of playoff hopeful Hamline (77-68), Macalester (60-52), Gustavus (63-60) and St. Ben’s (65-62 OT). We finished the 2010 basketball season with an NCAA berth, the only MIAC conference team to receive a bid for post-season play. We traveled to Whitewater, WI and played a tough Whitewater team. That game didn’t go our way, but I was so very proud of how hard we played and how this group stuck together.
Our team’s theme this season has been “Building on a Dream.” The goal was to have every player fully invest of themselves and take ownership in the team. I believe we’ve set a solid foundation for future growth and can build not only on the on-court accomplishments but also on the off-the-court investments.
Now we turn our attention to a new year. We look forward to continuing to grow and develop as a team and as individuals. Coincidentally, the new year marks the 20th anniversary of the 1991 National Championship. How appropriate for this team to celebrate its past champions while working toward so many of the same goals and aspirations of the women who came before us. We will recognize and honor the ‘91 team this coming February for all their successes on the court but more importantly for the tradition and solid foundation they built for the women’s basketball program at St. Thomas and which we now have a chance to put our face and stamp on. That’s the wonderful opportunity the 2010-11 women’s basketball team has in front of them. It is an opportunity I know we’re all excited to take on. We all look forward to the journey ahead of us and, with help from everyone who supports this program in so many ways, anticipate celebrating many successes together!
I don’t even know where to start…there are so many wonderful aspects to this past MIAC Championships:
1. The first men’s swimming championship in 56 years.
2. Training in four different pools (if you count the training trip) as our home went away.
3. The incredible improvment of our swimmers (again) this year.
4. 26 School Records and 87 new entries in the All-Time Top 15 list.
5. A true “Family” championship – our men won the trophy, but the entire team played a significant role.
Perhaps I’ll take a little time in the days to come to talk about each of these stories…they deserve their own telling.
But for now, let me take a moment to say thanks to the swimmers, of course, but also to the incredible group of fans that lifted us, session after session, to this great finish. A great, noisy group of parents, family, school mates, teammates, and alumni lifted our hearts through the exhaustion of a long three-day meet, and gave us the courage to rise to every challenge. Thank you…thank you. You share a piece of this great win.
Two more practices, and then the 2010 MIAC Championships begin.
There is a businesslike atmosphere in the pool, almost a serenity, as the team prepares. Certainly, there’s the playful stuff, as there is every year as swimmers taper and the energy level rises. There are always smiles, but this year, there’s a quiet confidence that has replaced the nervousness I’ve seen before. Nobody is fretting about how they are going to swim…they’re all thinking about the things they need to do to swim their best.
Maybe it’s the amount of adversity this team has had to overcome, just to get to this point…moving pools in mid-season, changing schedules, only one home meet, having to travel to St. Kates, just to have starting blocks (until we built “Frankenstein,” our very own starting block for the McCarthy pool).
But the adversity has brought us together, and placed us on a very special starting block, ready to dive into the MIAC Championships with a togetherness that we woudln’t have if the path were less rocky.
We’re more ready for this meet than St. Thomas has ever been.
And I can’t wait.
If you’ve clicked on to this page, you’ve probably already seen the results from the Minnesota Challenge. We tapered 20 swimmers for this meet, and asked them to lead the way for the group tapering in the coming days for the MIAC Championships. And, just like last year, they exceeded all expectations. We had season’s best and lifetime best times all over the place. Kids were dropping time like crazy, and there were more smiles than snowflakes in Buffalo.
But one of the most gratifying aspects of the meet was watching the taper group kids and the MIAC team kids absolutely fly on their relay legs. It’s one thing to swim well in your individual events, but when three other people are counting on you, and you uncork a great swim on a relay, it says something special about you. And we had that all over the place this weekend. Many of our best swims were on relays–when team was more important than the individual…and that tells you something about the men and women on this team, and why I am so incredibly proud of all of them.