Coaches, Swimming & Diving

Saying Farewell

The big overhead crane is now poised in the parking lot adjacent to O’Shaughnessy Hall. The old building looks more like a skeleton now, with the windows and doors all removed and everything salvageable taken from the building. The electricity is now cut off, and the March wind blows through the building.
But a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to walk quickly in, and take one last picture of the old pool, and officially turn my gaze from memories of the old place to planning for the new pool.
I thought I’d share this montage of pictures, from 1940, 2005, and two weeks ago.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving

It Hasn’t Sunk In Yet

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.

Coaches, Swimming & Diving


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?

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.