The clock did not stop until the last swimmer finished the last lap. As one lone Eastern swimmer steadily swam her last few laps at Cabrini’s Dixon Center pool, Eastern students cheered loudly, “Come on Amber! You can do it!” The other swimmers had finished their laps, but this didn’t stop Amber Smith, and it didn’t stop the cheering.
“It’s what I love about swim team,” said first year student Cliff Gehret. For Gehret, swim team is all about encouragement.
Behind the cheering stood two students, team captains Beth Walcott and Heather Roberts. When their coach had to leave at the end of last season due to health problems, Walcott and Roberts stepped, or swam, into his shoes.
The meet was unofficial because the team still lacks the NCAA status they have been hoping to attain for the past two years. Without a coach, facilities or funding, they have so far been unsuccessful. But 21 students make up the team this year, and the captains are expecting more growth next year.
Eastern lost the meet 96-76, but were by no means discouraged. Because Eastern has no indoor pool facilities, the team practices on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6 a.m. at the Cabrini pool for one or two hours.
“Compared with the Cabrini team who practices five days a week, when we only practice two, we did very well,” said Walcott.
The captains not only led the cheering section, but also taught several beginner swimmers, organized practice times and coordinated the meet with Cabrini.
“It’s been stressful having to accommodate for everyone yourself,” Roberts said.
The captains had help from two students they have dubbed the “Coordinators.” Rachel Brumberg and Kelly Hughs were aids in setting up the Cabrini meet.
The captains spend much of their time teaching new swimmers.As a first-time swimmer, Gehret joined the team hoping to get in shape for the upcoming soccer season.
“I didn’t know any techniques when I joined, but [the captains] taught me step by step,” said Gehret. “They were here first in the morning and left last. They put in more time than anyone.”
Teammate Kari Walter, sophomore, also had praise for her captains. “They are very nice to you and encouraging, even if you aren’t a great swimmer,” she said.
Gehret loves sports because of the competition it offers, but for Walter this was not the case.
“I didn’t expect to swim in a meet. I just joined for fun,” said Walter.Also a new swimmer on the team, Walter has learned a lot. “I’ve learned to be competitive,” she said with a smile, “and I’ve really built up my endurance.”
Walter began swimming when she was three years old, but stopped in middle school when she could go no further without competing. She joined the Eagles because she “just wanted the exercise.”
But for two students who joined to get in shape, Walters did well in the 100 meter and 200 meter free medleys and Gehret was proud of his second place finish in the 50 meter freestyle.
Eastern’s swim team may not have a coach, a pool or NCAA status, but with success stories like these, the team is still proud.