SWIM/DIVE : Diverse group of freshmen made comfortable by team unity
The sport of swimming offers the intriguing dichotomy of individual races fused with team competition. This unique combination makes it hard to discern whether the sport is more individualistic or team-orientated. Each swimmer or diver must work to improve a time or score in their individual event which contributes to the team’s overall score.
However, on Syracuse head coach Lou Walker’s team, there is no debate. Team comes first, especially this season, when 13 out of 32 members on the SU swimming and diving team are freshmen.
The Syracuse swimming team will travel to Yale to participate in the Nutmeg Invitational in New Haven, Conn., for the next three days while the diving team sets out for Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J..
The freshmen have had an instant effect on SU. On the men’s team, Alexander Taraskin holds the best Orange times in the 100, 200, 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle events, all of which are in the top 25 in the Big East this season.
Katelyn Schumacher, another freshman, has posted Big East qualifying times for six events for the women.
The team attempts to help all of the new athletes feel welcome at Syracuse, which for some is nearly 5,000 miles away from home. Yet Walker again tries to stress that all of the students are experiencing something together as a unit.
‘They’re no different than everybody else here,’ Walker said. ‘Somebody can be from New Jersey and be so homesick that they wind up going home. Distance doesn’t determine that. What you have is that you know that everybody, to a greater or lesser extent, is going to be homesick. That’s part of the process and one of the ways people get over it is that it’s a shared experience.’
Walker said the amount of swimmers who see the campus before coming to Syracuse University is a mixed bag. Some come to Syracuse having never even seen the campus in person.
Taraskin, for example, came to SU from Moscow, Russia. Schumacher is from Irvine, Calif.
‘We have kids from California, Arizona, the Pacific Northwest, Florida, Chicago, obviously the East Coast, we have Canadian kids, we have European kids and so on and so forth,’ Walker said.
It is a similar challenge with regards to the freshmen who are often attempting to transition into a new coaching style from that of high school. Senior Randi Beaulieu, a native of Toronto, remembers what it was like to be a freshman and how intimidating the process can be. Beaulieu sees the importance of extending help to the incoming swimmers on the team.
‘I know when I was a freshman coming in I felt really uncomfortable,’ Beaulieu said. ‘You feel out of place because everyone has been here and they know everybody. You try and help them out, invite them over to your house and hang out with them and stuff. You just make them feel welcome and comfortable.’
The support and familiarity that is gained over time often transitions into a more positive team attitude as members understand their positions. The team structure maintains a sense of community that reaches beyond practice in the pool.
‘This year we have the most positive team that we’ve ever had,’ said sophomore Sarah Manning. ‘I think we’re the closest we’ve ever been and every single girl has a certain part in our team. We depend on everyone equally, so it’s good. We’re going to do well.’
‘We’re like a huge family,’ Beaulieu said. ‘We all live next door to each other so I mean you have people to fall back on. If school’s not going well they’re there for your support. In the pool we give encouragement to everyone so we’re all there for each other no matter what.’
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