Some athletic organizations can attribute most, if not all, of their success to one or two individuals. These select superstars — and there’s no denying they’re out there — are simply so gifted that they can single-handedly carry an otherwise ordinary team to greatness. Kobe Bryant arguably does it year after year for the Los Angeles Lakers, and even here on campus former gym class heroes can be easily spotted laying down the brunt of the spikes, touchdowns or goals on a consistent basis.
In a world where such instances are all too common — where the word “team” is lost amid the big names and the big numbers — it’s nice to see exceptions such as the men’s and women’s swimming teams, a group of athletes to whom depth implies not only how shallow the water is, but the strength and flexibility of a lineup that requires the contributions of a vast number of individuals.
The teams proved their achievements this past weekend, against University Athletic Association rivals Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University, in a two-day season opener, where relay teams were the name of the game for the Yellowjackets’ success.
“All of the relays performed incredibly strongly today,” senior Kevin Howard said. “And we are only going to get faster from here on in. It’s going to be a very exciting year for UR swimming.”
The men opened Saturday with a victory in the 400 medley relay and a narrow second place finish in the 200 freestyle relay. The 400 relay featured a representative from each class, as freshman Sam Wilshire, sophomore Adam Bossert and junior Vince Ness combined with the seasoned Howard for an over one-second margin of victory. Ness and Bossert later teamed with freshman Alex King and senior Graham Bowman in the 200 relay.
Like their counterparts, the women enjoyed a predominantly team-fueled Saturday showing. Seniors Val Atwood, Cailee Caldwell and Dayna Jacob and freshman Karen Meess pieced together a victory in the 200 freestyle relay. Meess and Jacob also swam on the second place 400 medley relay with junior Jennifer Chung and sophomore Stephanie Bolin, while Caldwell helped sophomores Megan Lawless and Corinne Lampe and freshman Farrell Cooke to another second place in the 800-freestyle relay.
With so many blue and yellow representatives making their first statements of the season, there was a lot to be excited about by the end of day one.
“The first meet is always interesting because it’s an opportunity for everyone on the team to see where they are compared to last year,” Atwood said. “And we are right where we need to be.”
Atwood spoke from experience, headlining the girls’ individual performance on Sunday. Atwood returned to the water to claim victories in both the 100 (1:01.35) and 200 backstroke (2:14.07). On the boards, sophomore Sara Spielman scored a 214.95 to win the 1-meter dive.
Junior Rachel deLahunta scored a 205.35 for second in the event and threw in a victory in the 3-meter board (227.75) for good measure.
For the men’s part, Wilshire had a fantastic performance in his first meet as a Yellowjacket. Wilshire claimed first in the 200 IM Saturday, and followed up with wins in the 200 fly (1:58.93), 100 freestyle (0:48.36) and the 100 fly (0:52.34). Sophomore Elliott Lasher posted a second place score of 224.85 in the 3-meter dive – the sixth best score for that board in school history.
With a strong showing against some of the best DIII powers in the nation, the Yellowjackets now set their sights on their meet with Liberty League rival Union College two week from now.
“We have a long season ahead,” Atwood said. “And until February, we’re going to keep working and getting faster. The team has a lot of spirit, and I can’t wait to see what we can do.”
Bernstein is a member of
the class of 2014.