Monthly Archives

April 2009

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

The Jerry Olson Memorial Trophy – Women’s Co-Winners

For the second year in a row, Jena Root and Becca Ney shared the Jerry Olson Trophy, honoring the Most Valuable Woman on our team.
Both women are NCAA qualifiers and All-Americans. Both broke two individual school records, and both have a share of four new relay school records. Both were virually unbeatable during the dual and invitational meet season.
Jena won the 100 Back at the MIAC Championships, breaking her own All-time MIAC record set at last year’s nationals. Her time of 56.66 would seed her fourth in the national championships. Then, in the prelims of the 100 Back, she would swim an incredible 55.89, which would stand as the second fastest time in all of Division III this year. Jena also swam the lead-off leg on all our relays, and even held the school record in the 50 Free for a few minutes, until Becca took it back two prelim heats later. But Jena’s phenomenal 100 Back stands as one of the most remarkable swims in the 32-year history of women’s swimming at St. Thomas.
Becca won the 100 Free at the MIAC Championships for the second consecutive year, and qualified for both the 50 Free and 100 Free in the NCAA Championships. At Nationals, she finished as she was seeded in the 100, (14th) but hit a terrific 50 Free, moving from the 23rd seed to a 14th-place finish. While it is hard to single out one special moment, Becca’s anchor legs of our relays at the conference meet were a highlight…especially her anchor of the 200 Free Relay, where she hit the water in fourth place, and overcame more than a body-length deficit to touch the wall one one-hundredth of a second ahead of Gustavus. Her split of 23.26, which she nearly repeated on the end of the 200 Medley) was a half-a-second faster than any other 50 free split posted by any swimmer in the meet.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Our Annual Awards

Every year, we recognize our Most Valuable, Team Spirited, and Improved Swimmer/Diver. We also recognize the team’s outstanding Scholar-Athletes, Captains, and also present the Kirchgessner-Klein-Omar Bowl for Extraordinary Generosity of Spirit. These awards have significant history, going back to 1980 for the women, and 1981 for the men
In the next series of entries in this blog, I’d like to write about these trophies and their history, this year’s winners, and what it all means to our program.
The Jerry Olson Memorial Trophy is awarded to our team’s Most Valuable Swimmer or Diver. This year, it was presented to Peter Mullee, a junior.
This trophy is named for long-time benefactor and St. Thomas alumnus Jerry Olson, father of Hall of Fame swimmer Maureen Olson Staloch. Jerry was St. Thomas Swimming’s best friend, and was among the most respected men in USA Swimming for his diplomacy and efforts in international cooperation. It is fitting that the Most Valuable athlete on our swimming and diving team receive a trophy in his honor, because his daughter won the women’s team Most Valuable all three years she swam at St. Thomas.
This year’s winner, Peter Mullee, like Maureen, transfered from a Division I program, and like Maureen, he swam better at St. Thomas than he did in D-1. Peter won three events at the MIAC Championship (with two MIAC Records), and placed 9th and 2nd in the 100 and 200 Back, respectively, at the NCAA Championships. His 200 Back time was under the national record, and stands as the 2nd fastest 200 Back in NCAA D-3 history. He holds six UST individual School Records, and is a part of four relay School Records.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

New Pool Planning

By now, if you’re a fan of UST Swimming and Diving, you have visited the Anderson Student Center and Athletic Complex web page: and taken a peek at the floor plans for the new athletic complex. What you don’t see in the plans or the cool video “fly-around” is the details of what will be the coolest, fastest competitive pool in this part of the country.
Here are some of the details:
The pool will be 25 yds x 33yds, with a bulkhead separting the racing course from the diving area.
The diving area will have a 1m and a 3m board over 14 feet of water, and a heated floor around both boardsThe racing course will include eight 8′ 3″ lanes, with all lanes of equal depth: 8′ deep at the walls, and 9′ down the center of the pool. And the diving area will be lined for four 6′ 6″ lanes, giving us 12 training lanes for swimming when the divers aren’t on the boards.
As currently planned, there will be two levels of seating, with capacity (including standing room) for about 500.
We’ve included a state of the art timing system, integrated video and TIVO for diving and swimming,
What this all means, is that it will be the fastest 25-yard racing pool that we could possibly design (probably the fastest 25-yd pool in the Upper Midwest, if not beyond, and an amazing training facility for both swimming and diving.
After 70 years in the O’Shaughnessy Natatorium, it will feel like we’ve gone to Heaven…swimming and diving Heaven, anyway.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Tears, Joy, Celebration, Farewell

The Awards Banquet, held today, was at times heart-wrenching, funny, sentimental, and often downright inspirational.
The focus this year, was on the quality of our team…not just based upon the remarkable performances we had, but on the broader picture of what it means to be a swimmer and diver at the University of St. Thomas. As I told the group of about 140 swimmers, divers, parents, and family, we believe that a St. Thomas swimmer or diver is a well-rounded individual, seeking to be the best athlete they can be, while also being the best student they can be. Then, add to that a sense of involvement on campus, and top it off with a generous spirit of a young man or woman who knows what it means to give back, and you have a member of the St. Thomas swimming and diving family.
Of course, we can’t neglect the 22 new School Records we set (we actually broke existing school records 38 times, as we broke and re-broke records all season long). We can’t neglect the 69 new entries on the All-time Top 15 Performances list…or the 8 MIAC Championships…or the 4 MIAC Meet Records and 3 MIAC All-Time Records. And we need to honor our four All-Americans, and the fact that Jena Root posted the 2nd-fastest 100 Back in all of D-III swimming this year. And also that Peter Mullee, in taking 2nd in the 200 Back at Nationals, swam the 2nd fastest 200 Back in the history of D-III Men’s Swimming.
Just think for a second what that means…the 2nd fastest time swum by any woman this year in the 100 Back, and the 2nd fastest 200 Back ever swum by a man in NCAA D-III competition.
Do you know how they did it? By doing exactly what everyone else on the team did. Focusing on stroke, training at race pace, and then going out and swimming with confidence and a soul that will not be denied. Both are the wonderful by-products of hard work.
Which brings me to the theme of this year’s banquet. This year’s story included all those wonderful individual records, but it was, at its core, a story of 54 swimmers and divers. For we had, this year, a broad array of talents on the team…from record breakers to swimmers who learned flip turns in the Palace Clubhouse. But everyone was on the same page in terms of training and a willingness to place their wishes secondary to the needs of The Family, and our team’s goals.
Before the banquet, I e-mailed each team member and asked about their major, minor, campus involvment, and, “What was the highlight or most memorable moment of the season?” I haven’t done a scientific analysis yet, but I’m guessing that 95% of the team wrote about the excitement of the conference meet and the Minnesota Challenge, and how everyone swam so well, or, they wrote about watching someone else swim spectacularly well. They found joy in the success of their team and teammates. You can’t coach that kind of unselfishness, it has to come from character.
To illustrate this concept in a little more detail, the story of Tyler Chase is worth telling. Tyler is a junior distance freestyler whose work, internship, and volunteer experiences cut into his training time some, and kept him from double practices. He and senior Matt Swanson were “on the bubble” for selection to the 18-person MIAC Men’s Team, and each was swimming events where their best chance of scoring would be, in all honesty, if the entry list in one of their events thinned out some. Both had earned it, so the decision really came down to senior, or junior. I chose Matt, the senior. When I went to shake Tyler’s hand and inform him of the decision, he told me, “It’s OK…I would have asked you to take Matt, anyway.” You can’t coach that…it comes from character.
A couple of weeks later, in a vote of his teammates, Tyler was named this year’s winner of the Corbett-Walton Trophy, for Most Team Spirit. The voting wasn’t even close. Like I said, the records are nice, but athletes with generous souls are every bit as important.
The other trophy winners are:
Jerry Olson Memorial (Most Valuable)
Women: Jena Root and Rebecca Ney
Men: Peter Mullee
Most Improved Woman: Kristi Dameron
Greg Fitzpatrick Memorial (Most Improved Man): Tony Linn
Clancy Trophy (Most Team Spirit, Woman): Samantha Simon
Corbett-Walton Trophy (Most Team Spirit, Man): Tyler Chase
Dave Linn Trophy (Men’s Scholar Athlete): Pat Hangge
Kristen Murray Trophy (Women’s Scholar Athlete): 5-way Tie: Monica Beggs, Anna Kramer, Sydney Kuramoto, Rebecca Ney, and Sara Wappes.
Bob Christensen Memorial (Team Captains): Sydney Kuramoto, Jena Root, Tony Linn, John Stark