by Alex Pijanowski | Staff Writer
This total placed them only 1.5 points behind third-place Oakland University, and the caliber of the teams present — three Division I teams and one Division II team — meant that the pool was filled with tough competition.
Head Coach Jess Book ’01 took a holistic view in evaluating his team’s progress.
“I put very little stock at this point in the season to what place we finish,” he explained. “I put greater stock into how we are competing, how we are constructing our races, whether we are getting better and getting the details right.”
Katie Kaestner ’16 out-touched The Ohio State University’s Taylor Vargo to win the 100-yard breaststroke. Mariah Williamson ’16 also had some impressive finishes, placing fourth in the 200-yard butterfly and fifth in the 1,000-yard freestyle.
Maria Zarka ’16 claimed second place in one-meter diving, with a score of 227.45.
This meet was the team’s first competition since returning from a training trip to Florida over winter break, and Kaestner said she thinks that the annual tradition is an important turning point of the season.
Many of the normal commitments and complications involved in balancing a heavy practice schedule with coursework and social obligations are not present over the break — practicing is the sole focus. Beyond that, the nature of training and the near-exclusive focus on swimming allows the team to sharpen their mental edge and to smooth over any wrinkles in their approach to races which may hinder them in the later stages of the season.
“It’s easy to just focus on swimming, and nothing else,” Kaestner said.
Book is also a firm believer in the effectiveness of the trip. “It’s our last big push before we start to rest for the [conference and national championships],” he said. In addition to forming an invaluable component of the conditioning regimen, he described the trip as also being of great social significance — besides practicing together twice a day, for 12 days team members lived in villas together, prepared meals together, dined together and spent time on the beach together.
Williamson and others recognize the importance of this time in the season to the team’s fortunes in postseason competition, which starts with the conference championships Feb. 12-13 and culminates in nationals, held from March 19-22.
“We kind of see conference and nationals looming on the horizon,” Williamson said. “We know that we only have a couple more really difficult practices, but that makes each one of those all the more important.”
Although many of the teams that Kenyon faced in the Winter Invite are faster than the usual Division III competition, Williamson said that it is important in that it allows the team to “over-prepare” for the conference and national meets.
The Ladies are off next week, and scheduled to face Ohio Wesleyan University on Jan. 31 and Wittenberg University on Feb. 1, both at home. These meets will be the last two of the regular season.