Josh Ernst/The Student
Shaving cream, hair, blood and razors. This is what a hotel maid can expect to find after the Springfield College swim team leaves a hotel. This past weekend was no exception as the Pride traveled to Ithaca College to participate in the Bomber Invitational.
Mid-season invitationals are essentially a warm-up for the championship meet at the end of the year, so this means a multi-day meet with more than one session per day. The Springfield College team decided to go a step further and shave down and put on technical suits as well, cutting back on the intensity of training for the week before the meet.
“I mean, generally when I shave and wear a LZR (technical suit) and a dome cap, I feel good and swim fast,” said freshman Rob Stringfellow.
Shaving helps reduce a swimmer’s drag and improves their feel for the water. Technical suits are engineered to repel water and compress a swimmer’s leg muscles. Suits and shaving combined lead to faster times.
The Pride left at 9 a.m. Friday for the five-hour drive to Ithaca, N.Y. Most people take the opportunity to nap, although there is usually a movie playing. It is after the team is checked in that the fun begins: shaving. Experienced swimmers have the routine down to a science. Hair trimmers are used to remove as much hair as possible before a razor touches their body. Legs, arms and torso are shaved in quick succession, usually with accompanying nicks, cuts and swearing. A buddy’s help is needed to shave the back, and here and there, hair is removed from heads.
The Bomber Invitational was treated to the site of several members of the swim team with mustaches.
With nine teams in attendance, the meet was a long one. There were four sessions spread out over three days, each featuring four or five events. Most swimmers have two swims per session, so this means warming up before each event and then cooling down after a swim.
The meet took place in Ithaca College’s brand new athletic complex. With several hundred athletes in attendance, both the deck and the pools were crowded. Pre-meet warm-up is especially crowded, as everyone tries to find space to swim. With several hundred athletes, all of whom are doing different things in a fairly small space, things get chaotic.
Each event had six or seven heats of nine swimmers each, and the athletes had to keep track of what was going on or risk missing a race. Because of the rest, shaving and technical suits, the men’s swim team made a great showing for themselves, finishing third behind Cornell University and Hartwick College.
“Everyone really got behind everyone this weekend,” said sophomore Jay Scotto. “I just think there was more of an atmosphere this weekend. Seeing everyone do so well, I really try and get psyched up for my races and I think watching people in the same event as me swim in the heats before me and do so well, just got me really fired up.”
The atmosphere was clear on deck, as the team got behind each and every swim by a teammate. This atmosphere was present the entire weekend, and the results were obvious in the times posted. Almost the entire team swam extremely well, with both personal and season best times across the board.
“I think it went very well,” said coach John Taffe. “I was pleasantly surprised with the overall performance of both men’s and women’s teams. Not just performance, but the overall atmosphere was very good. Everybody was very upbeat and enthusiastic. They were very supportive of each other.”
As important as the work in the pool is, at a meet like the Bomber Invitational, what goes on outside of the pool is just as important as what happens in the pool. This essentially means that all swimmers do besides swimming at these meets is eating, shaving and sleeping. The team camaraderie and atmosphere helps here as well, as the team spends the weekend in extremely tight quarters.
“It gets interesting; it’s fun,” said sophomore Josh Frey. “It’s more bonding with the team, too, especially like when you get roomed with people you don’t really know as much, and it’s cool to room with people from different classes.”
In the end, this team bonding experience proved to be effective for the Pride on both ends of the pool as both divers and swimmers enjoyed a meet that was both fun and full of competition. If you see someone on campus with more hair on their upper lips than on their legs, you’ll know they are probably on the swim team.
Josh Ernst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org