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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

December 14, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Squad fueled by nationally ranked relay teams

The members of the men’s swimming and diving team are no strangers to being the fastest swimmers in the pool.

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Senior Jerry Diamond swims the breaststroke during practice Tuesday in the Hill Center Pool. The South Hill squad is 3–0 this season and has outscored opponents 517–317 this season. GRAHAM HEBEL/THE ITHACAN

None of the current athletes were on the team the last time the squad had a losing season, but rarely has the team dominated a swimming event the way they’re currently blowing away the competition in relays.
Only three meets into the 2010-11 season, the team has seen all four of the Bombers’ relay teams ranked among the top 35 squads in Division III by USA Swimming, which compiles the rankings for the NCAA based on the times for every Division III event.
The NCAA recently started requiring all teams to send the times for all their events to USA Swimming, and so far this season, three of the team’s four relay squads are in the top 25, and both 400-yard freestyle and medley relay teams are in the top 15 of Division III.
Senior and co-captain Steve Croucher, who also competes in freestyle events individually, said each relay team brings something different to the pool.
“Our [400] medley relay is probably the fastest of our relays, and then our 200 freestyle relay is probably a close second,” Croucher said.
The medley relay relies on four separate individuals swimming the butterfly, back, breast and freestyle strokes, while the 200 freestyle is structured around four strong freestylers.
There are a few differences between the two types of relays. The medley relays are held at the beginning of meets while freestyle relays occur toward the end. The distances make a difference too, Croucher said.
“Two-hundred free is a lot easier than a 400 freestyle since you don’t need a lot of endurance,” Croucher said.
Junior Jeff Rapp, who also swims backstroke and the individual medley, said a successful meet can ride on the 400-yard freestyle relay.
“Usually in a close dual meet it comes down to the 400 free relay at the end, and if you can really get some sprinters to pull through, you can win the meet,” Rapp said.
The South Hill squad is off to a 3–0 start this season and has yet to lose a 400-yard freestyle relay.
Part of the Bombers’ success in relays this season is because the team has a deeper roster overall than in previous seasons. With nine freshmen joining the team, the Blue and Gold have more swimmers to fill out their lineups and place their best swimmers in their best events.
Rapp, who is currently on the Bombers’ top 400-yard medley relay team alongside sophomore Jake Lichter, freshman Taylor Van Cott and junior Antoine Connors, said the Bombers don’t tend to medal with their relay lineups early in the season but can potentially switch based on how swimmers are performing down the stretch.
“We really don’t vary the lineups very much,” Rapp said. “We’re probably going to start switching them up at the end of the season because other guys start swimming faster, but we already know who are the fastest strokers and who are the fastest sprinters.”
Those fastest strokers include freshman Connor White, who is slated to take over Rapp’s spot on backstroke in the 800 medley relay. Rapp is poised to switch from the 800 medley to the 400 freestyle to make room for White. He said the change doesn’t bother him, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“I’ve been on the same freestyles for two and a half years so I don’t mind switching up,” Rapp said.
While each swimmer’s role in a relay varies from event to event, an athlete’s responsibility tends to be more defined in freestyle relays.
“In a freestyle relay, there’s a little more pressure on the last guy because you’ve got to finish, and the first guy’s got a little more pressure because he starts the race,” Rapp said. “The middle guys kind of hold pace and try not to get beat by the other team. With medley relays, you’ve got your stroke, and you know what you’ve got to do.”
This season, the South Hill squad has only lost one relay event which was the 200 medley relay — losing by .19 seconds — in its first meet of the season against Le Moyne College.
Freshman Cheffy Thomas, who also swims backstroke, said the Blue and Gold’s relay athletes enjoy the event because of the way the race embodies the teamwork and effort required in the sport.
“I just enjoy relays in general,” Thomas said. “They’re just a great way to really bond with the guys on the team so as long as it’s a relay. It’s not just you who’s swimming, it’s you and three other guys so you can’t hold back anything.”