When you think of college sports such as basketball, football, and baseball, the goal is to win. It’s simple. Go out there and win and that is the only focus. Swimming and diving is different though. When a team makes its way to Springfield College and enters the Art Linkletter Natatorium, the Pride aren’t worried who walks in. Their only focus is to improve themselves for the road ahead.
Dual meets in collegiate swimming do not affect a team’s record or their place in a set of
standings. They are meant to prepare each team for the bigger meets such as the NEWMAC championships in February and the NCAA championships in March.
“Our sport is unique in the fact that our meets don’t count for anything,” said Pride head swim coach John Taffe. “I don’t look at the numbers until after the meet is over because I’m only focused on how my players are doing and the improvements they are making.”
An example of this was when the Pride faced MIT on Nov. 4, a program in which both the men’s and women’s teams were ranked in the top five in the nation. Both MIT teams handily outscored the Pride and there weren’t any high expectations coming into the meet, but Springfield used the time to get better and feed off the competition.
Recently, the Pride competed in the Ithaca Invitational. It is not as important as the NEMWACs or the NCAAs, but it served as a good teaching point for the team and gave them a sense of what the atmosphere of the larger meets would feel like.
“I thought my team held their own out their,” said Taffe. “We faced some really tough squads out there and although the results haven’t come yet, we showed our poise and I think we gained enough experience to mentally prepare ourselves for the two big meets to come.”
The team will eventually come together to win some of the dual meets, but individual excellence has come quite frequently for the Pride.
For the swimmers, Delaney Dyjak collected NEWMAC swimmer of the week two weeks ago. In a tri-meet against Keene State and Wheaton, Dyjak won the 50 meter freestyle (24.38), 100 meter freestyle (53.87), and the 100 meter butterfly (58.43).
On the other side of the pool, diver Connor Pennington has started off his collegiate career to a blazing start. Recently, he was awarded his second NEWMAC diver of the week honors.
During the Ithaca Invitational, Pennington finished 5th out of 25 swimmers on the three-meter board notching a score of 449.30. On the one meter board, Pennington placed third out of 23 competitors with a score of 460.85.
Pennington has received 12 opportunities to qualify for the NCAA Regional Championship this season and has converted 11 of those 12 opportunities into qualifying scores.
“[Pennington] is already the leader of this team,” said head dive coach Peter Avdoulos. “I have never seen a diver start so strong and continue to exceed expectations.”
The team has glimmered at many points and there is still a lot of the season left to be completed. Over the course of the next few months, the Pride will keep practicing and keep working to prepare themselves for the meets that really matter.
In early February, the Pride will take on the NEWMAC championships and in March, some willbe able to compete in the NCAAs with a few dual meets scheduled in between.