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Swimmers continue to build BC program

Swimmers continue to build BC program

The Bridgewater College swim team is in just its second year as a varsity program under the direction of head coach Fran Smith. The Eagles have put together a solid season in the pool and are preparing for the ODAC Championship Swim Meet on Feb. 13-15 at Radford University. Coach Smith took some time to talk about this year’s team and the future of the BC swimming program.

Q - The swim team is in just its second season as a varsity sport. How would you describe the team’s progress thus far in the first two seasons?
Coach Smith - This year's team is a stronger team than last year’s. We have a lot of freshmen and first-year team member who are stepping up and scoring for us. Even though we are not where I want us to be in five years, I think we are progressing in a very positive way.

Q - It looks like the Eagles should have a good shot at placing fourth in the upcoming conference meet behind the ODAC’s big three of Washington and Lee, Randolph-Macon and Sweet Briar. What does the program need to do to close the gap between BC and the top three teams?
Coach Smith - I had a goal when I began the program last year to crack the top 3 in five years. In order for that to happen I need to bring in 4-6 girls each year who are a little faster than the previous girls. It will take the type of girl who is willing to take a chance on a new team and coach, knowing that we will not be in the top three for a few years, but is willing to come in and make an immediate impact to help us move a little closer to that goal. Also it will take the girls on the team this year to stay committed to the team and to work in the weight room during our off season and to also stay in the water year-round. I have a good group of girls this year and I think most of them will be willing to make that commitment.

Q - Last year, the Eagles had four Top 10 individual finishes at the ODAC meet. Who are the BC swimmers who have the best chances of turning in Top 10 performances this season?
Coach Smith - Lauren Clague has a good chance in the 200 fly and her 200 free. Morgan Cordle has a good chance in her 500 free and mile. Katie Schlemm has a long shot in her 100 breast and 200 IM. Sophie Thomas has a long shot in her 50 free.

Q - You have just three seniors on the team. What have Morgan Cordle, Katie Schlemm and Kirsten Miner brought to the team in terms of both leadership and performance?
Coach Smith - Morgan has been a team captain for 2 years and is definitely a very strong team leader. She leads in and out of the water and is very well respected by the whole team. She works hard every day and the girls see that. In the water I always know that she will give 100 percent and we count on her points at every meet. She also is very good at motivating swimmers. I rely on Morgan almost as an assistant coach. She is the person who I go to if I want to toss out an idea. I would love to have her come on board next year as an assistant coach. Katie Schlemm has a very different approach than Morgan but is equally affective. She was voted as one of our tri-captains this year and has taken that position very seriously. She has been excellent in guiding our younger swimmers and teaching them how to react to me and also how to help defuse problems that could potentially tear the team a part. She also has stepped it up in the water this year and has been a very solid scorer for us. She continues to drop times in her IM and breaststroke because she is working hard every day in practice and it is paying off for her. Kirsten is a quieter force on the team. She is a hard worker who quietly goes about doing what she needs to do every day. She has had some shoulder problems this year and I know I can count on her to work as hard as she is able to but to also back off if the shoulder is causing her problems. She is very secure in who she is and because of that her personality rubs off on other swimmers. I am truly going to miss these seniors next year.

Q – You are in your second year of a five-year plan to guide the Eagles toward the top of the conference standings. After watching your first teams, is the program on course to meet its goals?
Coach Smith - This team is very different from last year’s team and I am sure next year’s team will be different from this year’s team. Each team is unique and has its own personality. But the one thing that I don't want to change is the passion that each team has for swimming. Swimming is a very difficult sport because it is time consuming and it receives very little recognition. We start swimming the end of Sept. and don't finish our season until the middle of Feb. So that makes it a very long season. It takes a lot of dedication and also takes a team that gets along in and out of the water. The team last year set the bar very high for future teams. That team decided that we wanted a team that got a long and didn't allow petty differences to interfere with our goal of building a successful swim program at Bridgewater. They have passed down that goal to this year’s team and they will continue to pass it down to next year’s team. That will help to make up a strong, competitive team in the future. I am also very committed to this team and want to steer it in a positive direction. I want to build it every year and gain respect in our conference for not only a successful team but also a team that loves the sport and also respects each team in the conference and respects each other. I think we are on the right track right now to make Bridgewater College proud of our sport!