By: Athletic Communications Student-Assistant Cannon Dees '20
Cold, icy, snowy, and nearly impossible. These are all words that could describe trying to swim outside at Baldwin Wallace University during the month of December. However, for the men's and women's swimming and diving teams, the words warm, fun, and memorable may be what comes to mind.
For the last 20 years the swimming and diving teams have taken an annual training trip to Siesta Key, Florida, for a week in December. The idea of the trip is to get the team in an environment where they can focus solely on swimming over the holiday break. Also, by training at the Arlington Park Aquatic Center in Sarasota, Florida, they benefit from access to a different training experience than their usual home of the BW Natatorium inside the Lou Higgins Rec Center.
"It is a great opportunity to get away from campus and focus on our best training," said Head Coach Laura Demaline. "We have the opportunity to train in 10 lanes which allows for more creative workouts than in our six-lane pool. Also, our divers have access to a one-meter and three-meter board, which gives them a great opportunity to train both of their events at the same time. It offers awesome team bonding and growth as well, which is a big reason for the trip as well."
Senior All-Ohio Athletic Conference swimmer Erika Nockengost (Cuyahoga Falls) enjoys training in the sunshine state and especially the weather that comes with it.
"Training in Florida is different in that we get to workout on the beach and swim outside," she mentioned. "This is really nice because it makes up for the sun we don't receive during December in Ohio. It's also a more challenging training because of the increase in yardage and overall intensity. The mentality is a lot more focused while we're there."
Demaline is sure to make the most of their time in the pool by putting the teams to work three times per day. Starting at 7:00 a.m., the swimmers and divers meet for their dryland workout which leads into their first pool training from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. After a few hours of free time, they're back in the water from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. before enjoying the rest of the night with each other.
While these long days may seem like a lot of work to some, it is exactly what Nockengost needs after a long semester of being a student-athlete.
"Our training trip is quite possibly the only time in our lives that we have the opportunity to just be athletes" she said. "We have a break from academics (on winter break) and, by being away from home and school, I feel that the training trip is the only time I can fully allow myself to focus on swimming. It's a huge mental health vacation for me."
Although the main focus of the trip is in the pool, it also builds team morale out of it and helps create some of the teams' favorite memories. Between team dinners, trampoline parks, shopping, tanning, daily beach trips, and the annual sand castle building competition, there is plenty to enjoy.
"Every year I feel like our training trip is the place where our team forms the strongest bonds," Nockengost shared. "I remember my first trip, feeling like I only really knew my roommate, who was also on the team. By the end of the trip I felt a strong sense of comradery with everyone on the team. Over the last four years, training in Florida has taught me that you should never take your teammates for granted and to really savor the years you have being a student-athlete."
"This past December I completed my ninth training trip with BW and each year offers many different memories," Demaline recalled. "An overall favorite part of the trip for me is seeing our team transform physically and mentally. The freshmen gain such great confidence and we see our swimmers and divers beat challenges they haven't met yet that year. We get to see them start to realize their potential that all of us coaches know they have. It's a great week to be a coach and be a part of that."
With the season winding down, Demaline is hoping to see not only the training trip pay off, but to have the entire season come to a successful close.
"We are looking forward to the Ohio Athletic Conference Championships and then hopefully the NCAA Championships in March," she said. "We have just started our rest phase now that our dual meet season is over. It's a very exciting time of year for all of us because our swimmers and divers get to see five months of hard work pay off."
BW will host the OAC Championships on Thursday-Saturday, February 13-15 at the Ocasek Natatorium on the campus of the University of Akron. Preliminary races will start at 10 a.m. with final races starting at 6 p.m. every night. Fans can follow all of the action live at http://homepages.bw.edu/~stats/swim/oac/.
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