By Rachel Terry, Contributing Writer
The warm temperature engulfs me, and I begin to sweat as I find a seat. The chlorine in the air stings my eyes, and tears begin to form. Splashes of water land on my legs as the swimmers power by frantically in the 200 yard medley relay, the first event of the meet. The yelling reaches its peak when the swimmers come up to breathe and commences as soon as they are fully submersed in the water once again.
Asbury’s bench is full of fidgety swimmers donning sweats, headphones, and speedos. Occasionally someone will readjust a cap or a pair of goggles. Music choices are either approved or ridiculed as phones are held up to each other’s faces. Sitting or standing still during conversation appears impossible. The atmosphere of competition has taken over both minds and bodies.
The Asbury swim team takes preparation for meets seriously. Each member has his or her own special ritual to perform before each race. Sophomore Tommy Otley puts on his goggles and cap in a particular way every time.
“I usually put my goggles on first, then put my cap on,” Otley said. “I usually don’t like the way it fits so I put it on and take it off and put it on and take it off and put it on usually about three times, then it’s just right.”
The coach, Alex Keyser, stands on the far side of the pool with his arms waving wildly above his head as Sara Henderson reaches the last few laps of her 1,000 freestyle. Kayley Valentein leans over the pool edge and immerses the plastic lap counter into the lane, pumping it up and down furiously.
Meanwhile, a group of swimmers cluster at the end of lane four to watch freshman Leah Haeuber swim the 50 freestyle. They paddle their arms up and down as a signal to kick faster as Haeuber creeps ahead of all the other swimmers to take first place with a qualifying time for nationals.
“My goal was to make my 50 free national cut and I made it,” said Haeuber. “At the first meet, too.”
Eighteen hours of practice a week go into these successful races and the camaraderie of this team. During practice, Keyser yells the components of their workouts so that he can be heard over the roar of the water while Lecrae is blasting from the speakers. As he barks out what they will be swimming, a couple swimmers try to hide looks of exhaustion.
Tension arises between the sprinters and the distance swimmers when they are given different workout to complete. “I don’t know if [they swim] less amounts of yardage, but sprinters will swim 25s and 50s, and the mid-distance and distance will swim hundreds and hundreds of yards,” said Haeuber, a sprinter herself, “[Distance is] going a long time without taking breaks and we’re getting breaks all the time. That’s why they don’t like us.”
However, the camaraderie of the team is strong enough to withstand this small amount of tension. As I observed them swim lap after lap during practice one day, two swimmers sharing one lane swam by, filled their mouths with water, and proceeded to spit it out on each other’s faces.
As the team gathered around their coach seated in a folding chair at the end of the pool, Keyser began by saying, “Now listen to this without touching each other, looking at each other…let’s be serious.” Of course the whole time he talked teammates kept sneaking smiles and comments to each other.
Haeuber said that the best parts of being on the team are the friends she has made and having an excellent coach. “He’s very supportive, and he always prays for us,” she said. “If we goof off, he’ll tell us nicely to calm down, and even when we don’t he doesn’t get very mad.”
Last year, the upperclassmen on the team began a new tradition of giving the freshmen crazy haircuts before the conference meet. “They shaved the top of my head so I looked like Martin Luther,” Otley said, laughing. “I was basically a friar.”
“When the new freshmen come in, the upperclassmen think they’re all that,” said Keyser.