Both the men’s and women’s swim teams got off to a solid start this past Saturday, defeating Holy Cross. The women’s team, led by swimming coach John Taffe and diving coach Peter Avdoulos, beat the Crusaders 173.5-121.5. The men, who are also coached by Taffe and Avdoulos, swam to victory as well by a score of 156-142.
Coming off strong seasons, both teams have extreme potential and talent, however, neither team has any expectations.
“Expectations add unnecessary pressure,” Taffe said. “Both teams have a tremendous amount of potential, and there is talent and depth everywhere.”
The men’s team added some depth by bringing in six freshmen to this year’s team. “We have 30 men on the team this year, and thus far they are all looking good,” Taffe said.
As far as Taffe is concerned, the incoming freshmen, as well as the rest of the team, have great leaders to look up to.
“Our captains, Nolan Manley and Scott Peters, are great leaders and work very hard,” Taffe said. “They practice what they preach, and set a good example for the rest of the team.”
Manley helped display this leadership during the off-season by helping run captains practices.
“We held captains practices every day where we would run and swim,” Manley said. “We thought it was important to still have fun at these practices, so we would work in games like water polo or Frisbee.”
The women are approaching this season in the same way, however, they are much younger than they were last year.
“We graduated five very good swimmers last year, and overall, we are very young,” Taffe said. “We are going to need time to develop at both ends.”
One way both teams are prepared for this season is through off-season training, Taffe said. The team continues to prepare for the championships during the actual season.
“Our dual meets help prepare for the championships. We also have the longest season of any sport, so that helps as well,” Taffe said.
Both teams began the season a few months ago, and are just now starting to swim in meets that count toward the actual team record according to Taffe, who went on to add that the team practices nine times a week.
“Practicing nine times a week is very taxing on the body,” Manley said. “Most people on the team will agree that the best way to overcome this is to take naps frequently.”
Taffe knows that the key to building a successful swimming program at Springfield is for the team to buy into the philosophy year after year.
“The swimmers on the team this year have some of the best attitudes top to bottom of anyone I have coached,” Taffe said. “They know they have a chance to have a very successful season.”
For the swimmers on the men’s and women’s team, they know that their success is not measured by how well they perform against the opponent.
“Success is measured on development and competing against the clock, not the other team,” Taffe said. “The key is not to focus on winning and losing, it is to focus on improvement.”
Kellie Pennington, who won the NCAA Division III National Championship in the 50m freestyle last year, has the same mindset as Taffe.
“Kellie is more focused with swimming faster than winning,” Taffe said. “If she improves on her time, it does not matter if she wins or loses.”
The women finished No. 12 overall at the NCAA Division III Championships the past two seasons. They were also named a Scholar All-America Team by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America by achieving a cumulative GPA of 3.62, according to the school website.
Pride swimmers have had a history of success at the Olympic Games as well. Just this past summer, Springfield grad, Roy-Allan Burch won his heat while setting the Bermudan national record in the 50m freestyle. However, Burch failed to advance to the semifinals. Burch also competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he also failed to make it to the semifinal stage. Another SC grad, Justin Zook, won his third consecutive Gold Medal this past summer in the Paralympic Games. In the win, Zook was able to set the world record in the 100m backstroke with a time of 1:00.01, also according to the Springfield website.
The 2012-13 men’s and women’s swimming seasons promise to be exciting, and continue this Saturday when the women travel to Kingston, R.I. for a meet against the University of Rhode Island, with the men going to the same place to take on Coast Guard Academy.