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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?

Basketball - Women's, Coaches, Ruth Sinn


Emma, TJ and I recently enjoyed a family tradition together … watching Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade … our favorite part of the parade is always the big balloons. Macy’s holiday season theme, displayed prominently on its store, is “Believe.” The final parade entry was Santa on his sleigh … signifying the beginning of the Christmas season, certainly a time of belief.
As we watched Macy’s parade, I couldn’t help but think about this year’s team and our “season of belief.” We are in the process of believing unconditionally in ourselves as individuals and in our teammates, coaches and program. The only way to grow and thrive is through taking risks, being vulnerable, depending on each other and being willing to learn from our mistakes. If we believe and give all of ourselves to that goal, success will be achieved. It’s not always easy however. Our society often reinforces the notion of taking the easy way out … playing it safe, keeping options open and being unwilling to fully commit. Very little can be accomplished by acting in those ways.
The wish I have for my players is to develop a solid belief system. First and foremost, I wish for them to believe in themselves, their abilities, and the beauty that lies inside. Nelson Mandela, Noble Peace prize winner, said,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.”
Individually, I want each of my players empowered by who they are and to be ready and willing to offer their gifts to make the world around them a better place. As a team, I want us to come together to use our gifts for the common good and to act as one. Doing so will create a powerful and extraordinarily special experience. This coming together is where unconditional trust and understanding exist. The ability to put your faith in another person and believe in them allows the group to accomplish very special goals … and everyone is better because of what the team accomplishes together.
In this holiday season and beyond, it is my hope that you develop the belief in yourself to be the person you know you can be. Do not limit yourself and belittle the greatness that lives inside of you. Instead, use those gifts and talents to give of yourself to create something special.

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.

Basketball - Women's, Coaches, Ruth Sinn

The Builder

Wow! What an exciting time to be a Tommie! Last spring following graduation, Opus construction began demolition of Schoenecker Arena, Coughlan Field House, and Foley Theater. Our women’s basketball players were the last ones playing and shooting in each facility. It is hard to let go of the past especially when the past is filled with tradition excellence and warm hearted memories. Many of us grew up in Schoenecker Arena, where we have won a National Championship in 1991 and 11 MIAC Conference Championships. We learned life lessons with teammates, coaches, and became who we are today. It is sad to see the arena go… but the pride, traditions, and opportunity for excellence is something that lives in all of us and will continue to live in our women’s basketball players. We will carry this forward.
Onto the future… this summer began the construction of the new Anderson Athletic and Recreation Center. This facility is going up quickly the outer walls are in place. With this building we are all asked to take part and bring our past, ourselves into the future. To build, own , and create a new name for Tommie Basketball. This building process is our theme this year. To be true builders of our St. Thomas program. What does building mean? Yes… it is the structural interpretation of constructin buildings to serve the community but there is also a deeper meaning. To be true builders means ownership, hard work, dedication, and a commitment to ensuring that the end result is phenomenal. Too many times we all play roles in our lives where we allow ourselves to be negative, we are there but not engaged and in the end we do not accomplish much. True builders are invested wholly, they are present each and every moment and maximize this opportunity, and they are invested in the end result. Making their team the best it can be. As I look forward to this season I am excited about the opportunity to build here at St. Thomas. Building a program with quality people. All of us here at St Thomas can be true builder s of our program.
Below is a poem that reminds me of the building process. Each of us has a role to play. We are looking forward to the future and all of its opportunities to be the builders we are!
The Builder
I saw a group of men in my hometown.
I saw a group of men tearing a building down.
With a heave and a ho and a mighty yell,
They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.
And I said to the foreman, “Are these men skilled?
They type you’d hire if you wanted to build?”
And I thought to myself as I walked away,
“Which of these roles am I going to play?”
Am I the type that constantly tears down
As I make my way foolishly around?
Or am I the type that’s trying to build with care,
In hopes that my team,
-Author Unknown

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Samantha Simon Swims the English Channel !!

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:

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.