In the water with W&M Swim

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A brief but severe storm last week left many in Williamsburg without power and William & Mary’s campus covered in downed branches. Even so, the indefatigable swimmers of the Tribe swim team were plowing through the debris-laden water of Williamsburg Community Pool early Friday morning, conditioning themselves for the upcoming fall swim season with a summer practice session. 

After the year the team has had, this summer training is only fine tuning an already well-oiled machine.

“I knew we had a talented team, but I was surprised with how talented they are,” said Assistant Coach Alec Hayden, who just finished his first year in the position during which the team set 32 school records and four conference records. 

“When you see their hard work pay off at the end of the season, it’s awesome,” he added. 

Some of the swimmers took a break from their sets to share their swimming advice for those lured to the pool by the warm summer days, hoping to make recreational swimming a part of their exercise regimen. 

“Go get some laps in. You don’t have to do anything too hard; just go and swim a little bit. Anything helps,” said Rebecca Spicher ’15.

Patient determination is essential, as many swimmers emphasized the importance of not expecting immediate results. 

“Don’t start out thinking that you’re going to be swimming a lot, because people who don’t swim get tired pretty fast,” said Kemp Pettyjohn ’15. “You have to start out slow, then work your way up.”

When asked about the health benefits of swimming, team members were quick to point out how well-rounded swimming is as a form of exercise. 

“Swimming, personally, is probably one of the best cardio workouts that you can do. You work every muscle in your body, pretty much. It helps lung capacity, blood flow—it helps pretty much every aspect of your physical fitness,” said Pettyjohn. 

Head Coach Matt Crispino believes that recreational swimmers can receive many of the same health benefits as the swim team does by following a similar, but less intense, routine. 

“There is no better exercise in the world than swimming. It is low impact, it engages your entire body from head to toe, and it’s fun. In the summer time, there’s also no better way to cool off,” he said. 

“I recommend finding a group or team that trains together or a knowledgeable coach who can work with you. I also think it’s critical to start slow with a focus on technique. Working on technique through drills at the outset will make swimming more enjoyable in the long run. But most importantly, relax and enjoy the water!”

Of course any substantial workout sounds wonderful in theory, but is difficult to maintain in practice. 

“Take everything one step at a time because this is a very mental sport, and it can get tough sometimes when you’re in the middle of a really long set,” advised Jessie Ustjanauskas ’16. “Just stick with it. The hard work will pay off.”

The payoff, at least for these swimmers, has been substantial in terms of both health and competitive success. Achieving this payoff, however, requires dedication that is not always easily mustered.

“Swimming is the kind of sport where the more you train, the better you get. There’s a direct correlation, so I think that’s what keeps us going,” said Lukas Dempsey ’16. “Talent definitely helps, but if you have a good work ethic, it’s pretty much directly correlated with hard work.”

Ultimately, it is team spirit that drives the swimmers to continue pushing themselves beyond their limits. 

“In the end, championship meet season when you swim lights out and really fast makes it all worth it,” said Pettyjohn. “Especially in college, swimming for a team when you see other people happy with their swims and having fun, having a good time, that makes it all worth it.” 

“It’s a huge team effort, everyone’s always invested in everyone else, and everyone’s got your back. It’s a lot of fun,” Spicher agreed. 

While it is easy to bask in the summer warmth and simply enjoy the water, the Tribe swimmers know they are swimming with purpose. They have their eyes set on championship competition in the coming season. 

“This year's team will probably be the most talented team we’ve ever assembled here at W&M, so expectations are undoubtedly high. The team is hungry and putting in some great work this summer to prepare. We have goals of competing for a CAA title in February,” said Crispino. 

“But, since the season is a long one—27 weeks to be exact—we are going to focus on the process of coming together as a team, working extremely hard, and paying attention to the details that will ultimately determine our success. If we do these things, I really like our chances come February.”