By Luke Whitehouse
The Springfield College swimming and diving teams have concluded their regular season and shifted their focus to the NEWMAC championships on Feb. 16-19 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
On Feb. 4, the Pride split a meet on the road against Babson, as the men were narrowly defeated 146.5-141.5 while the women cruised to a 170-114 win.
On the men’s side, James Chan won both the 200 free and the 200 IM while his brother Jonathan won the 100 fly, the 50 fly and tied for first in the 100 free.
Jordan McMillan (50 free), Owen Oldenburg (100 back) and Sean Andrews (three-meter board and one-meter board) all took home first place finishes as well.
For the women, Mikaili Charlemagne, Nina Lamb, Erin Kelaher and Natalie Chamberlin won the 200 medley relay in the day’s first event, with Lamb also earning first-place honors in the 50 and 100-yard breaststrokes.
Other first place finishes include Charlemagne (100 butterfly and 50 butterfly), Emma Savoie (200 freestyle and 500 freestyle) and Kay Shen (50 freestyle and 100 freestyle).
After winter break, both teams heated up as the women posted a near-perfect 8-1 record in dual meets, while the men earned a 6-2 record.
One of the reasons for the success of both teams is the unique way that they train. Each team practices together – creating internal competition and forcing everyone to bring an added focus to practice.
“I think being able to train together has been really helpful,” said Elizabeth Fraser, a senior on the women’s team. “Being able to work together has [enabled] us to do some really good things.”
The NEWMAC Conference Championships at WPI will provide a venue to show off all the hard work the group has done over the latter half of the season.
“We’ve really had a very good second semester,” head coach John Taffe said. “But that’s all preparation for this one big thing coming up.”
Although the late season success has provided some momentum heading into the postseason, Taffe believes this year has proved to be much more than just wins and losses.
“This has been probably the most cohesive group I’ve ever coached,” Taffe said. “It’s been a very smooth year, just a group of people that were really determined, focused on the common goals.”
In the regular season, swimmers and divers focus on finishing in places. The postseason, however, is all about time.
That difference, combined with not knowing the qualifying time prior to the race, provides a whole new challenge.
“It changes every year, and quite frankly, gets harder every year,” Taffe said. “We have an awful lot of individuals on both teams that have a good chance…and we could have a large number move on or we could have zero. That’s how much of a fine line it is.”
There are 450 schools competing at the Division III level, and with talent increasing, there is an extremely limited number of spots at the national level – and it’s getting tougher each year.
Despite the differences, and more at stake, Taffe doesn’t feel that a different approach is needed.
“You don’t necessarily do anything different,” Taffe said. “From a training perspective, you do what’s been successful, and what’s worked. It all comes down to the mental side when you get into the bigger arena and competition gets tougher.”
Even though many of next weekend’s races may come down to a hundredth of a second, and some may move on or barely miss out, Taffe’s feeling will be consistent.
“No matter how it shakes out, either way, I’m going to be very proud of them, because they’ve made our job easy and that’s what I always look forward to,” Taffe said.
Photo Courtesy Springfield College Athletics