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Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Poised

Two more practices, and then the 2010 MIAC Championships begin.
Can’t wait.
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.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Taper Group Does Not Disappoint

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.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

A Final Goodbye

On Friday, I wrapped up the office packing for the day. Most of O’Shaughnessy Hall was dark and, except for the humming of some fans and pumps, quiet.
I opened the door to the pool for the last time, turned on only two underwater lights, each at opposite ends of the pool, and dove into Lane 3.
Letting the memories of the old pool’s 70 years wash around me, literally, I swam quietly for 310 yards…ten yards for each year I’ve coached here. But I was so aware of all the years before my time, and all the swimmers who had swum so many yards in that pool. Aware of all the friendships created there, all the races, with their joyous moments of victory and the disappointments–where the greatest outcome is the lesson learned.
I was expecting to be tired…I’m not in great shape right now. But I was lifted…perhaps because I welcomed the spirits that were with me, but more likely because of the atmosphere and tradition of that great old pool, where no one in the Family ever truly swims alone.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Saying Goodbye to “The Palace Clubhouse”

Around 10:00 AM tomorrow, the last workout in O’Shaugnessy Natatorium will wrap up with a slow, easy 200 yard swim, and a long, elegant chapter in the history of St. Thomas swimming will come to a close.
It will be a quiet end to what was, at many times, a raucous and exciting era.

Last Friday, December 11, 2009, the old pool saw her final meet, fittingly against Gustavus. Jon Carlson brought up his best men and women, the week before final exams, to swim…thanks, Jon! So two teams, at the top of the MIAC (as they were when the pool opened in 1940) battled it out, with St. Thomas coming out on top with both the men and women.
But the racing took a back seat to the memories. About 70 alumni were at the last meet, and everyone from St. Thomas (and all but a couple Gusties) swam in the last event, in the last meet, in the Natatorium. When the last race finished, people began clapping…and then standing…and the ovation for the old pool lasted two or three minutes. What a special moment…one of so many moments that night, and in the 70 years previous. It was no wonder that the kids didn’t want to get out of the water…
So, a toast to the old O’Shaughnessy Natatorium……Bob Christensen’s vision….I.A. O’Shaughnessy’s generosity….and the home of hundreds and hundreds of Tommie swimmers and divers…swimming millions of yards…
Every swimmer and diver a link in a very long and strong chain…every link in the chain with a thousand memories.
How can you ever truly say goodbye to that?

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter

It’s been a busy fall…so my apologies for not keeping up this blog. But there’s a new urgency in the air, as the construction of the new Anderson Athletic Complex is being led by the new Aquatic Center. Construction is proceding so well, in fact, that we are planning to vacate O’Shaughnessy Hall at the end of the fall semester.

This first picture is several weeks old, but shows the interior looking northwest. If you look closely, you can see the double row of bleachers that will provide seating for well over 400…in a dramatic amphitheater style.
The second pic is of the beautiful limestone facing brick that is going to be the exterior of the south wall. These windows look out over the Quad, toward Aquinas Hall and the Arches. Just imagine the view in mid-winter, when the magnificent pines are covered with lights…or the view from the Quad, looking in on that beautiful expanse of water.
Exciting times ahead for Tommie Swimming and Diving.
But first, we have some business to attend to in the water…including two big invitationals either side of Thanksgiving, and then a fun weekend where we swim the last-ever meet in O’Shaughnessy Natatorium on December 11, at 6:00, against Gustavus. That meet will feature events from 1941, when the pool hosted its first meet (including the 150 Medley Relay, 220 Freestyle, 50 Yd. Dash, 150 Backstroke, 440 Freestyle, 200 Breast Stroke, and 400 Freestyle Relay.
So mark your calendars, and alumni, look for a postcard in the mail soon.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Start of Practice

Monday, October 5, saw the start of the 77th season of St. Thomas swimming, with the biggest, and perhaps the most powerful men’s and women’s teams in our history.
We currently have 66 swimmers and divers on the roster (including three women who are studying abroad, and four divers who are training at St. Kates).
Practice is a little crowded, but if Monday’s practice is any indication, the energy of the team will more than make up for a few extra waves.
We welcome what is also probably the strongest first-year class we’ve ever had. On the women’s team, the new faces are:
Ashley Anderson, Bellevue, WA
Liz Becker (daughter of Tom Becker ’84), Mahtomedi, MN
Katie Bromback, Sparta NJ
Jenny Bruno, Oconomowoc, WI
Valerie Chesnik, Madison, WI
Wendy Consoer, Lakeville, MN
Kathleen Dempsey, Eagan, MN
Hali Germond, New Germany (Waconia)
Karly Harrod, Burnsville, MN
Alexis Rodarmel, Colorado Springs, CO
Jessica Root, Roseville, MN
Emma Wills, Prairie du Sac, WI
Andy Akason, Eagan, MN (Eastview)
David Bailly, Eagan, MN
Lucas Brandt, Cambridge-Isanti
Patrick Dooley, Minneapolis South
Mike Hoelterhoff, Lake Forest, IL
Jeff Isaccson, Forest Lake, MN
Dan McCourtney, Wayzata MN
Tyler Moulton, Red Wing, MN
Ethan Nimens, Crookston, MN
Ryan Panure, Hopkins, MN
Sam Rauchwarter, Eagan (Eastview)
Ben Ruhme, Bloomington (Jefferson)
Steve Stark, Ames, IA
Zak Wesen-Kahn, Irondale HS
Bo Wills, Prairie du Sac, MN
These 26 new swimmers and divers represent the strongest and deepest recruiting class we’ve ever had, and they join a very strong group of returnees…a group that posted the highest MIAC and NCAA finish since 1993.
What will 2010 bring, besides a fabulous new pool? Well, time and hard work will tell. But with this group, it’s hard not to want to set our goals very, very high.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Two Weeks ’til We Begin

The 2009-2010 season begins October 5…and I know that there are about 60 swimmers and divers who can’t wait. The captains have already held some optional pre-season practices and the unofficial word is that attendance has been great.
The swimmers and divers have good reason to be optimistic. We have the strongest incoming class of swimmers and divers (especially divers) that we’ve had in 20 years, and this fine group of new men and women join a group of returning athletes that posted our best MIAC finish in 18 years. This all means more strength, more depth, and a situation where our swimmers and divers will be challenging each other, and lifting each other.
All this adds up to a ton of optimism. We’re going to have a lot of men and women scoring at the MIAC Championships. Can we win a title? That will be answered as the season goes along…but if our swimmers and divers improve like they did last season, no one will question why we set that as one of our team’s goals.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Samantha Simon Swims the English Channel !!

BIG NEWS!!
St. Thomas sophomore distance swimmer Sam Simon completed a crossing of the English Channel last week.

The crossing took 13+ hours, and she set out in relatively good weather, which turned into very rough seas about five hours into the swim (her parents were estimating 25-foot waves). Sam’s captain aboard the safety boat, who was in charge of the crossing, was going to nominate her for “toughest swimmer” of the year…whether this is an honorary or real distinction has yet to be determined, but no one on the Tommie swim team has any doubts.
Congratulations, Sam, on this remarkable feat! You’re in inspiration to us all!
For an outstanding TommieMedia report by Matt Linden, follow this link and find the story among those listed:
http://www.tommiemedia.com/

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Most Team Spirit Award

Wrapping up our review of this year’s team award winners, we present the winners of the Clancy, and Corbett-Walton Trophies. Our Most Team Spirit Awards are named for two families of swimmers and an individual who virtually won this award every year they were on the team.
The Clancy Trophy
The women’s Most Team Spirit Award is named for the Clancy sisters, Kathy and Colleen. Between them, in the 1980s, they either won or shared this trophy seven times during their careers at UST.The 2009 winner was first-year swimmer Samantha Simon. A hard-working Fly, IM, and distance swimmer in her own right, she was as vocal as anyone on the team, and was totally unselfish in her willingness to be there for others. Unless she was getting ready to swim, Sam was at the end of the pool, keeping someone inspired.Sam will be staying in great shape this summer, as she prepares for a swim across the English Channel in August.
The Corbett-Walton Trophy
This trophy was taken over by the Corbett family between 1986 and 1990, when Tim won or shared it for three straight years, and then younger brother Charlie won it in for the next two. Kirk Walton did almost as well by himself, winning or sharing the trophy four times between 1995 and 1999.
In 2009, the overwhelming winner was Junior Tyler Chase. Tyler was always at the center of any cheer, supporting people at the end of the pool, firing people up in practice, and he carried on the traditional “Happy to be Here” shout right before we’d “power up” after the National Anthem.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

The Christensen Trophy – Our Captains

The Bob Christensen Memorial Trophy honors the Father of St. Thomas Swimming, the man who was the first coach of the Tommies. Bob Christensen (right) was hired in 1939, shortly after athletic director Jack Starrat took a group of self-coached students and gave them a chance to become champions. Within a few years, St. Thomas had its first state college championship (a pre-cursor to MIAC Swimming). Christensen was instrumental in designing the O’Shaughnessy Natatorium, and remained as St. Thomas’s swim coachfor five years–winning two championships– until World War II dramatically interrupted college life.
The men’s captains for 2008-09 were Jeremy Anderson, Tony Linn, and Seth Warren, and the women’s team captains were Krista Horejsi and Jill Otterson.