Swim team duels cross-town rival in preparation for ODACS

Women’s swim team ready to race for ninth consecutive conference title despite snowstorm schedule changes


Sarah Schaffer, ‘16, has been named to the Second Team All-ODAC Team each of her three seasons as a General. This year, she hopes to make the jump to first team. Photo courtesy of W&L Sports Info.

Emily Cook

The clock is ticking for the Washington and Lee women’s swim team. With only one meet left until the ODAC championship meet, against cross-town rival VMI no less, the stakes could not be higher.

Originally scheduled for Jan. 23, inclement weather and major snowfall from Winter Storm Jonas pushed the meet back by a week. The later date, though, provides the Gennies with a last-chance tune-up meet before they head to Greensboro, N.C. for ODACs.

Despite having only thirteen days to prepare, the team is heading into ODACs both excited and confident. To prepare for the conference championship meet, swimmers “taper” their bodies, meaning they conserve energy at all costs so that they can bring it all to the pool during the ODAC meet.

“As of now we start tapering which means, we do more sprinting, decrease our weights and dry land training, and take the elevator to avoid stairs at all costs because we don’t want to exert any extra energy,” Rachel Baker, ‘17, said.

Although the team is easing up on dryland workouts now, it will not start to take it easy in the pool until next week, according to Lindsey Gilbert, ‘16.

As the swim team heads into ODACs, being mindful outside of the pool is just as important as working hard during practice.

“To prepare to perform at my best, I am sure to continually remind myself to stay focused in class, so as to not fall behind before the days we miss for the competition, but also to stay focused in the pool,” said Harrison Westgarth, ‘17. “Everything takes on a greater air of importance and every little yard really means something. I try my best to really make sure I’m sleeping enough leading up to ODACs, especially this semester with the dreaded Norovirus wreaking havoc on campus.”

While preparing for the conference championship meet takes dedication and hard work, it is also one of the most enjoyable parts of the season for the team.

“At this point in our season, we are so close to ODACs and the end of such a long but rewarding road, that the energy of the team is palpable both in and out of the pool,” Westgarth said.

The extra energy has positive effects on everyone, both in and out of the pool.

“Everyone is in such a good mood when we’re tapering because everyone has so much energy and everyone is excited to swim,” Baker said.

In a sport so reliant on individual performances, swimmers work extra hard to compliment each other and keep attitudes as high as possible.

“The girls team writes affirmations before the meet, which means you write a paragraph for each girl [on the team] and say why you think they’re going to do awesome at ODACs,” said Baker.

The swimmers receive their affirmations the night before the meet, and each note gives a specific example of a time during the season that her teammate feels she stood out.

“It’s one of my favorite parts of the season because it gives me 22 reasons why I’m going to swim fast,” said Baker.

The affirmations are one of the team’s numerous pre-ODAC rituals, such as making encouraging posters for each swimmer, making a banner to hang during the meet and mixing a CD with everyone’s favorite songs to play in the locker room.

The Generals will compete in the ODAC Championship Meet at the Greensboro Aquatic Center on Feb. 12 through 14.