Ursinus Swimming is Built Different

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Article by Adam Denn <addenn@ursinus.edu>

“This program is different.” It’s a phrase heard often in college athletics recruiting, as coaches attempt to sell athletes on a team. Often the phrase feels forced and contrived. But the moment I stepped onto the pool deck for the Bears this season, I knew in this case it was true.

Through a transformative culture of intense effort, both our men’s and women’s swim teams have gotten out to an incredible 5-1 start, taking down tough divisional opponents and non-conference challenges along the way. Through the adversity of the past 6 weeks of the season, we’ve grown stronger and stronger, transforming into a team ready to face the challenges that await.

For our swim team, one word explains the bond created by the team’s culture: juggling. Every January, the team travels to Florida, a training trip to strengthen the team for upcoming championships. But throughout all this hard training, the team practices juggling, a skill not pertinent to the team’s success or to swimming’s success in any way. “It’s about commitment to this program,” said Coach Feinberg, who says the juggling speaks to the athlete’s ability to “be committed enough to perform a task, purely for the team.” 

The bond that results was evident early in the season, when both teams faced tough challenges from Widener. Despite us being favorites coming into the meet, our challengers took it to us in a big way. The Pride came out with season-best swims in multiple races, creating an immense amount of pressure to perform with our backs against the wall. “We did not swim our best meet of the season,” Feinberg confessed, “but we were able to win close races when it mattered,” including a walk-off win in the final event, the free relay, for the men’s team. Both meets inspired a tremendous amount of confidence moving forward because of how we displayed an ability to work through “an imperfect meet.”

Then there is the midseason meet. While other sports have weeks where they participate in “walkthroughs” in order to rest for an upcoming competition, swimmers mostly do not rest going into competitions. However, for two meets every year the teams fully rest in preparation, and the “mid-season meet” is one of these. It is often looked at as a litmus test for how a team will be able to handle the structure of their championship meet, and treated with similar importance by all involved. Coach pointed to this being a “huge opportunity to gather information” about the team’s preparedness. The Bears will take on both Swarthmore and Salisbury in this year’s midseason meet, one the defending Centennial Conference champions and the other a large up-and-coming team in the Metropolitan Conference. The opportunity to face off against “the dominant conference champions” in the Garnet and a team as “incredibly talented” as the Gulls represents a “huge test” for the team according to Coach, one that should once again prove our mettle as we approach conference championships. It’s a challenge we feel more than ready for as a program, a team shaped by the challenges that have surrounded us and an unbreakable bond.