The women’s swimming and diving team got just what it needed to maintain its
undefeated record in conference and regular season competition during the winter break.
All of the Bombers were able to stay healthy despite an often tiring training schedule at a pool in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the team stayed for two weeks without competing in a meet.
The Blue and Gold went through a rigorous two-a-day practice schedule in Florida, swimming in the pool every day from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m.
Head Coach Paula Miller, who is in her 28th year coaching the team, said underclassmen on the team chose not to soak up the warm weather during some free hours because of exhaustion. She said there were days where team members decided to sleep between the two-a-day practices.
Junior Carly Jones said the team was discouraged at the beginning of the trip, but being together for three weeks helped cope with the homesickness she and some of the other swimmers faced.
“It definitely bonded us as a team because we were all taken away from that home atmosphere,” she said. “We were able to become a surrogate family that you rely on for the things that you need.”
Despite initially missing home and being worn out from training, Jones said the team’s focus increased since they could dedicate their time solely to practicing technique without the burden of a typical semester course load.
“In the water, we were focused on getting our work in, rather than talking and thinking about finishing a paper or studying for class,” she said.
Miller said the team’s veterans began to show their leadership skills by providing
encouragement and spending time with one another in Florida when the team wasn’t practicing. They would encourage afternoon trips to the beach and local landmarks like the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
The Bombers also bonded with members of the men’s swimming and diving team, who were also training during the break. Jones said both teams kept the tradition of having a class dinner, where members of both squads can take their minds off of swimming and discuss goals for the rest of the season.
She said the men were like their brothers on the trip as they were able to offer their advice and encouragement about things in and out of the pool.
The Bombers received an added boost from junior Kelly Higgins, who rejoined the team after studying abroad during the fall semester. Higgins said the training trip was different for her compared to the other members of the team because she had to reintroduce herself to her teammates.
“I swam in different lanes with different people to try to meet the new girls and reestablish my relationships with the other girls,” Higgins said.
Higgins, who was coming off career highs in the 50- and 100-yard freestyles in the 2010-11 season, was inserted into the lineup in the first meet following the trip. She led the 200-yard freestyle relay team of sophomore Rachel Greway and freshmen Tyra Mazzer and Katie Huber to a first-place time of 1:55.89 in a dual-meet against Nazareth College and SUNY-Fredonia on Jan. 14.
The Blue and Gold ended up defeating Fredonia 170-129 and the Nazareth Golden Flyers 175-123. They had their work cut out for them when they faced the University of Rochester the following week. The South Hill squad went on to tie the Yellow Jackets at 150, earning their first draw since a 121-121 finish against the SUNY-Cortland Red Dragons in 2005.
The team’s unbeaten streak of 32 straight dual-meets is still alive, and they sit atop the Empire 8 Conference with an overall record of 11—0—1 this season.
Miller said the way the team came back from a large opening deficit against the Yellow Jackets was a sign of the mental toughness gained over the winter break training trip.
“It drills home how important the little things are, such as the finishes and the turns,” Miller said. “It’s the difference between a win and a loss.”