By Amelia Sniffin
Over Christmas break, the Wheaton Men’s and Women’s Swim and Dive teams headed to West Palm Beach, Fla. for their winter training trip. The training trips typically take place every three years in warm locations, allowing the teams to train outdoors. Along with training, the Thunder competed in an exhibition meet against Randolph Macon College (Va.) and Roger Williams University (R.I.).
The teams utilized the weeklong trip to train twice a day, waking up early to be in the water by 6 a.m. for morning practice. The teams swam outside in a 50 meter pool, longer than the standard 25 yards, which made training sessions more rigorous. In between the morning and afternoon practices, the teams ate and relaxed together by the ocean.
“The coolest part of practicing outside was that we were either practicing with a beautiful sunrise every morning or every night we had a beautiful sunset,” said senior Tice Wilkerson in an email interview. “It was great for team morale to be outside working hard in the fresh air together.”
To break away from the monotony of training on the trip, Wheaton competed against Roger Williams and Randolph Macon in Wellington on Jan. 2. The meet gave the Thunder the opportunity to race against teams they would not compete against otherwise. Since the meet did not count toward the teams’ season record, swimmers could simply focus on improving their personal times and practicing in events they may not otherwise have been able to compete in during the regular season.
“Being able to relax mentally and enjoy racing for racing’s sake, without team points on the line, made for a great environment and led to some great swims,” Head Coach Jacob Ayers said in an email.
For the Thunder women, there were several standout individual performances. Sophomore Abigail Rutledge placed first in the 50 meter butterfly and second in the 100 individual medley (IM). In the 50-meter freestyle, senior Maggie Franke finished in second place with a time of 25.69, closely followed by freshman Abby Pardridge in third place, with a time of 25.74. Pardridge also placed first in the 100 IM with a time of 1:02.53.
“The underclassmen have a tremendous work ethic. They have high goals and are not afraid to work toward them,” Coach Ayers said. “Although we have great leadership from our seniors, we are definitely excited about the future of the program.”
The Thunder men also swam a strong race in Florida. Freshman Dawson Bremner swam 24.50 in the 50 meter butterfly, earning him first place. The second place swimmer finished a mere tenth of a second later.
The Thunder dominated the 100 IM, with junior Will Rinne and sophomores Benjamin Griffith and Ethan Kile placing first, second and third, respectively. All three athletes finished within one second of each other. Griffith also had a strong second place finish in the 50 meter breaststroke with a time of 28.44.
The men’s and women’s teams continued to dominate in the relay events. The men’s B 400 meter freestyle relay placed third behind the second place A relay who swam a time of 3:05.47. In the 200 medley relay, the B relay placed second, while the A relay followed in third, just 0.19 of a second behind.
The women’s A 400 freestyle relay placed first, four seconds ahead of the second place finishers while the A 200 medley relay placed second with a time of 1:53.41.
“We were able to work hard but also grow closer as a team,” said Coach Ayers. “The time we spent down there will pay dividends athletically, emotionally and spiritually for the team. We are looking forward to seeing how our hard work pays off with great swims at CCIW.”
The Thunder will finish their regular season against Augustana and North Central before advancing to the 2020 CCIW Swimming Championships on Feb. 20 in Pleasant Prairie, Wis.