By | Alex Pijanowski
Kenyon’s swimming and diving teams routinely sit atop the Division III national rankings. Contributing to this success are athletes that were so enticed by Kenyon’s reputation that they left the prestige and elite competitive level of Division I swimming to become Lords and Ladies. Three athletes who have made such a move are making waves on the team this year.
Cincinnati native Austin Caldwell ’15 transferred in 2012 from the University of Pittsburgh (Pitt). Harrison Curley ’15, from Orlando, Fla., transferred this past fall from the University of Florida (Florida). Hillary Yarosh ’14, a native of West Chester, Pa., transferred before her sophomore season from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech).
“It’s not uncommon at Kenyon; it’s also not uncommon amongst all the top swimming programs in the country,” Head Coach Jess Book ’01 said. “Typically, students [who transfer] are just looking for a different environment and a different opportunity. I’m excited about anyone who’s a great fit for Kenyon College.”
A shared theme in the decision processes of all three students was a change in academic environment, which they felt to be especially appealing at Kenyon. Caldwell did not find the academics at Pitt as challenging as he wanted them to be, and he said that he has been much more satisfied with the rigor of his courses at Kenyon.
“If I was going to transfer, I was going to transfer to a better school,” Caldwell said. “I wanted to continue swimming, but I didn’t really want to swim DI anymore. I think with DIII, everyone’s on the team for slightly better reasons — only the benefits that you get from being on a team and competing.”
Yarosh also felt very strongly that the DI mentality did not match hers, which led her to look into DIII swimming.
“I felt at Georgia Tech that some people were swimming for their scholarship[s], and unfortunately, that was the way that they were paying for school, which is legitimate,” Yarosh said. “But, at the same time, I love swimming, and I want to be around people who want to be there. One of the things that I really liked about coming here was that I felt like, if people were on the team, they wanted to be on the team — they wanted to be a swimmer.”
For Curley, an English and art history double major, coming to Kenyon has allowed him to follow one of his passions which does not relate to swimming.
“I’m an associate at the [Gund] Gallery,” Curley said. “That’s something I always wanted to do, but it’s something that I never would have been able to do in a big athletic program, because you just don’t have time for it.”
In addition, he said that DIII athletics provide a more optimal environment to grow as a person.
“[Kenyon’s] coaches aren’t focused so much on how I’m going to swim as they are focused on how I’m going to become a better person,” Curley said. “While we have Jess [Book] and [Assistant Coaches] Haley [Mitchell] and Kyle [Berg], who really want us to swim fast, they also understand that swimming is something that ends, and your life continues, and they’re helping us all be better people in the end.”
The transition has not always been simple, though.
Caldwell likened the difference between DI and DIII swimming to that between professional and amateur athletics. However, the sense of solidarity which has developed among transfer students on the team has certainly made the process an easier one.
“It’s very comforting to know that people have already blazed that path,” Curley said.
“It’s nice to have someone on the team who understands what transferring is like,” Yarosh agreed.
Kenyon’s three DI transfer students made a significant impact upon their teams’ fortunes through their outstanding performance in the water.
By the middle of December this season, Curley had already set the school record in the men’s 200-yard backstroke and has since broken his own personal record. He later claimed the record in the 400-yard individual medley (IM), which had previously been held by current teammate Andrew Chevalier ’14.
At the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) meet, Curley won the 100-yard backstroke in a time of 49.14 and the 200-yard backstroke in a time of 1:46.38, and also led off the 200 medley relay, which eventually took first place. For his performance over the course of the season, and especially for his dominance at the NCAC championships, Curley was named the conference’s Swimmer of the Year.
Yarosh also has her name displayed in multiple places on the record board at the James A. Steen Aquatic Center. Individually, she holds the record for the women’s 200-yard freestyle, and is also a part of the record-holding relay teams in the 200-yard freestyle, 400-yard freestyle and 800-yard freestyle events. She won the 200-yard freestyle at the conference meet, and her time of 1:49.62 in that race was milliseconds off of her own record of 1:49.29.
Caldwell and Yarosh were also integral to Kenyon’s success at the conference meet last week. Curiously enough, this was perhaps most apparent in the same race, the 800-yard freestyle relay. Yarosh, swimming the second leg of the women’s relay, earned a lead which the team held until the end. Caldwell, swimming the anchor leg of the men’s race, came from second place to pull ahead of DePauw University’s relay team, and his relay split of 1:37 put the Lords in first place for that race.
All three of these athletes believe the more individualized and focused training regimen at Kenyon has helped them achieve their full potential in the water.
“I didn’t improve any of my times my first year, and I definitely felt that if I had stayed [at Georgia Tech], I don’t think I would have improved as much as at Kenyon, due to the individualized training and the different taper training that we do,” Yarosh said.
Comparing DI and DIII swimming, Caldwell said, “I definitely like [DIII] more. If I wasn’t as happy [when] swimming as I am, I wouldn’t be going as fast as I am.”
The impact these students have transcends their impressive times, and others have taken note of their significance to the team and to the College.
“[Curley] is a great fit for both the team and the campus as a whole, and he has carved a place for himself, in both arenas, pretty much seamlessly,” teammate Celia Oberholzer ’15 wrote in an email. “He brings an energetic and lighthearted presence to the deck at meets, and he is engaged and cheering during every teammate’s swims. He knows how to swim fast and have fun without taking the sport too seriously, which I think has been invaluable to the team’s ability to stay calm, move forward from past successes and failures and redefine what it means to be a Lord or a Lady with each swim.”
Caldwell, Curley and Yarosh each qualified to compete at the NCAA national meet in March. Expect to see this transfer trio continuing to be major forces for their teams in Indianapolis.
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