Section: Sports

Relay Meet brings speed and fun to Steen Aquatic Center

Relay Meet brings speed and fun to Steen Aquatic Center

Courtesy of Mike Munde

By Alex Pijanowski

The Kenyon College Relay Meet began like any other. As they often do during home meets, the Lords and Ladies ended up squarely defeating their competition: the women earned 128 team points; the men earned 124.

Up-tempo music played over the loudspeakers as the athletes swam warm-up laps. Next, each team gathered  to let loose an obligatory cheer. The Lords and Ladies calmly entered the pool from their locker rooms, walking alongside the eastern edge of the pool. The national anthem played, and it was time to begin.

A swimming aficionado who left after the first event, which was the 200 medley relay, might very well have expected a routine meet  However, shortly afterward, the Relay Meet began to quietly but assuredly distinguish itself from the norm.

Its characteristic events are the 3×500 relay, in which three swimmers each complete 500 yards; and the mixed relay, in which each team consists of two Lords and two Ladies. In addition, the meet features a 200-yard relay of each stroke — freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke .

Head Coach Jess Book ’01 said he was pleased with the team’s intensity.

“We want to be the most exciting team on the pool deck, and it takes energy and planning to do that,” he said.

Many team members, especially first years, were impressed by the team’s deck presence.

“It [was] a great way to see the team dynamic right off the bat,” Sam Palicz ’18 said.

“[The Relay Meet] is a good way to bond with your teammates, since everything is a team event,” Cecina Babich Morrow ’18 said. “It takes a little bit of pressure off, knowing that you have other people on your team who are in the same event as you, and  [are] working with you, rather than against you.”

For Julie Dierker ’18, this weekend’s meet put the training up to this point into focus.

“I had been practicing with the team from the beginning of school,” Dierker said. “I’d been hearing all their stories about past seasons, and it was really a great experience, for the entire freshman class — for us to all come together in our first meet.”

For their efforts, Austin Caldwell ’15 and Katie Kaestner ’16 were named NCAC Athletes of the Week.

“I feel kind of ambivalent about it,” Kaestner said. She explained that, although she feels honored, success at the Relay Meet is not always “indicative of anything else.”

Another positive factor is the addition of two new assistant coaches, Doug Lennox and Fernando Rodriguez ’04. Lennox swam at Princeton University, competed for Puerto Rico in the 2008 Olympic Games and owns three Puerto Rican national swimming records. Rodriguez swam at Kenyon, where he was a team captain, and has extensive collegiate coaching experience, most recently at the University of Richmond.

“Fernando and Doug are both passionate people,” Book said. “They care about the [student-athletes] they get to work with.”

Gabe Bellott-McGrath ’18 likened the weekend’s events to “a really tough practice.”

“You’re seeing the people you’re going to be racing all year,” he added. “It’s just a really cool preview of the [season], but presented in a laid-back [way].”

Despite his positive assessment, Book cautioned against premature predictions about one of the longest seasons in college sports — with the Division-III NCAA Championships ending on Mar. 21, 2015, the swim season runs over five months long.

“In the swimming community, early-season times don’t predict late-season times,” he said. “I’m proud of the work that we’re doing, and I was pleased with the way we competed, but we still have a long way to go.”

Despite changes to the coaching staff, Book said he does not expect the training this season to be a revolutionary break from the past.

“The most important things we do right now are practice the habits we’re going to use in championship meets,” he said.

Book’s outlook is summed up nicely in one sentence: “Where we are now is just that — where we are now.”

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