The men’s and women’s swim and dive season extends the farthest into the spring of any winter sport. Over the last weekend their drawn out postseason finally came to an end, culminating in the NCAA DIII swim and dive national championships in Shenandoah, TX. Only a small cadre of swimmers, those who qualified for the regional and national meets, trained during the three weeks between the NESCAC meet and nationals.
“We… trained them very hard for 2 full weeks after the (NESCAC) meet to make sure they could handle the rigors of a 4 day championship meet,” said head coach Peter Cesares in an email. “After those two weeks of intense training to build up their aerobic capacity were over we rested them by doing a lot of pace work to get them comfortable with their racing speed – and the fast swimming that was coming.” Cesares is not unfamiliar with national meet preparation, who is in his 10th season at the helm of the Bates aquatics program, and a collegiate All-American swimmer himself.
“We do a ton of easy swimming, mixed in with some pace work,” added Sara Daher ‘17 in an email, one of Bates’ swimmers who competed in an array of events last weekend. “It helps us remind our body of what it feels like to race fast. The easy swimming ensures our body is recovering properly before, in between, and after races.” This mix and match approach, put together by Cesares would prove effective in Texas.
One hurdle the teams had to overcome before they even started swimming was their long, mid-semester trip to the far south. “The distance can be a bit tough to juggle, as traveling isn’t the best for your body on the way to a swim meet,” Daher noted of the farthest distance the team had to travel this season. Arriving in Texas on Monday, two days prior to its start, gave the Bates swimmers an extra day to acclimate, recover from their travel, and prep for the meet.
After finishing fifth in the NESCAC meet, tying the best finish in program history for the third year in a row, the men’s team finished 24th out of 52 teams at the national meet, another program best finish, per the Bates Office of Sports Information. Teddy Pender ‘18 led the men, finishing 11th in the 100 freestyle with a time of 44.72, a new team record.
The women’s team finished in 13th place out of 51 teams, and were anchored by another stellar performance from Daher. Daher, who had already collected 17 All-American honors over the course of her collegiate swimming career, added six more to her record. For swimmers, these awards are distributed based on each individual event, giving swimmers like Daher, who are able-bodied in a broad array of events, the opportunity to tally such a high number of honors.
With 23, Daher is unquestionably the most decorated Bates swimmer in school history, more than doubling the number of awards any other swimmer has received, according to the swim and dive team website. Her final collegiate performance will almost certainly vault her into consideration as one of Bates’ top athletes of all-time. “It’s an extremely surreal feeling walking away from my last collegiate meet as a Bobcat,” Daher said. “I would not be where I am today without my teammates, coaches, family and friends. It is quite an honor to represent Bates College and the swim program at the most elite meet in all of Division III.”
“The team overall swam great. They handled adversity – both tough swims that hurt and missed opportunities – and bounced back to swim lifetime bests and score points at the toughest meet of the year,” said Cesares of his team’s performance. “They had huge successes along the way and learned so much about what it takes to compete at the highest level.”