11:32 a.m. – Greetings from Indianapolis, Indiana, the site of the 2014 NCAA Division III Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships. I flew into the city via Minneapolis with a layover in Chicago this morning and made my way to the hotel shortly after. The seven student-athletes, three coaches, and sports information director will be staying roughly a block off of what is called Monument Circle located in the heart of Indianapolis.
The athletes along with assistant coaches Alex Lindstrom `99 and Luke Weyandt `07 arrived in Indy on Monday night. Yesterday was used for travel and getting settled into new surroundings. Grocery shopping was on the to-do list last night and I’m sure the carbo-loading has already commenced. Being around swimmers at an event such as this is new for me so I’m interested to learn about the diet strategies as the week wears on. I keep thinking about Michael Phelps and his 12,000 calorie diet during the Olympics.
Just outside our hotel is what is called the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument, which makes of the center of Monument Circle. Limestone statues, bronze lions, fountains, and a tower in the middle of it all make up a monument dedicated to the Indiana natives who fought in the American Revolution, War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the US Civil War, and the Spanish American War. I had a little time early this afternoon so I walked around the monument and took a few pictures to give everyone a sense of the city and where we are staying.
The first two members of the team I ran into at the hotel were senior Alissa Tinklenberg and sophomore Tarin Anding. Tinklenberg is the veteran of this group of seven individuals, while Anding is the youngest. Alissa competed in the same pool at the 2012 NCAA Championships as a sophomore. She also told me that it was in the IUPUI Natatorium that her competitive swimming career began. As an 11-year old, Tink competed here as a part of a meet featuring a selected group of the top swimmers from the Midwest. It seems to have come full circle for the senior from Willmar as she will end her collegiate career here this week.
4:12 p.m. – At 1:00 p.m., the team, coaching staff, and I headed to the IUPUI Natatorium for the one and only practice session before competition begins tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. The competition pool is located in the southeast corner of the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus. The facility looks very similar to the Aquatic Center at the University of Minnesota, except for larger stands on both sides of the pool. Tinklenberg called it the Aquatic Center on steroids.
As I walked through the facility in an attempt to get my bearings inside a building I will make my home for four days, I realized rather quickly that this place is saturated in swimming and diving history and that many legends have graced the waters of this pool. The United States Olympic Trials have been held here in the past and the names of those who make the cut grace the walls. The competition pool is 50-meters with eight racing lanes. The water is kept at 79 degrees, but the majority of Gustie swimmers thought the pool felt cold – even colder than the Minnesota’s where they compete in the MIAC Championships.
For a walkthrough tour of the IUPUI Natatorium, please follow the link below.
The swimmers can use the warm-up day to swim for as long as they would like on this day. In talking to Luke Weyandt at this afternoon’s swim, the goal for the swimmers is familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Today’s workout helps them get used to the water, get a feel for the walls and blocks, and to fine-tune their relays. Coach Carlson said after leaving the natatorium that his swimmers owned the pool today and that’s what he was looking for.
After the workout, Luke and I conducted a couple of interviews with Dante Colucci and Laura Drake. Colucci is competing in his first NCAA Championships, while Laura is at her second. I will touch on Laura’s nationals history in a bit, but please follow the link below to see the interviews.
8:34 p.m. – After the returning to the hotel, it was time to get ready for the NCAA Championships Banquet held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 6:30 p.m.
The ladies, gent, and coaches looked great in their formal attire and the banquet was top class. There were two speeches from the banquet that I would like to touch on. The first speaker was a young man by the name of Andrew Peterson. Andrew was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and had severe learning disabilities as a child. A family in Indianapolis adopted him and through years of speech and physical therapy, and special education, Andrew has persevered through hardship to become a student-athlete who is a role model for millions. He went on to letter four times in cross country at his high school, can run a 4:52 mile, and will compete in the Special Olympics national competition this year in New Jersey. To go along with his athletic accomplishments, Andrew thrives on public speaking to audiences such as tonight. His message was one of respect and he received a standing ovation.
The second speaker was Brian W. Casey, the president of DePauw University. Casey is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he graduated summa cum laude after competing on the varsity swim team for four years. Being a former collegiate swimmer, Casey was in front of the right audience. The early stages of his speech focused on the challenges (often funny) of being a swimmer. The swimmers and coaches at my table could relate to every story and were at times laughing hysterically.
His jokes were over my head, but what he said about competition and staying in the moment this week resonated with all athletes in the room. Casey talked about being in the moment during the best race of your life. You feel light, fast, and the movie version of your former self. Time moves slowly and you lose yourself in the feeling. This, Casey said, is why you swim. Those moments matter. They stay with the athlete until the end of his/her life.
“If you’re lucky and brave, you’ll have that race this week and it will stay with you for the rest of your life,” Casey concluded.
10:19 p.m. – Back at the hotel following the banquet, the seven swimmers, coaching staff held its final team meeting before the NCAA Championships begin tomorrow morning. With the seven athletes on two hotel beds, Coach Carlson began with administrative items. The team will wake up and go for a walk around Monument Circle tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m. Following their walk, they will eat breakfast before heading to the pool at 8:15 a.m. The journey began many years ago for these swimmers, but it all comes to fruition tomorrow morning.
Carlson also touched on recovery tactics, nutrition, hydration, and warm up and cool down procedures. This four-day meet will be the most grueling the athletes will every experience, so every detail matters. From doing the proper warmup to snacking throughout the day, nothing is overlooked and every detail could be the difference between a spot on the All-America Team..
Jon then spoke to the team about enjoying the moment. “Of all the colleges and athletes across Division III, you are the ones who made it this far,” he said. “You are the best of the best and you are here for a reason. These moments don’t happen very often and this is the only time this group will be together like this again.”
He talked about the journeys of Laura Drake and Danielle Klunk. As proof of how fleeting this moment can be, Laura competed in this meet as a freshman and is back swimming at the NCAA Championships as a senior. Dani – now a junior and a first-year member of the Gustavus swimming and diving team – is a transfer from the University of Iowa. She came to Gustavus because it allowed her the opportunity to swim at this stage. That opportunity is here and like her six teammates, she ready to take advantage of it.
There was nervous energy in the room, but as Alex Lindstrom said, “Nervousness is your friend right now. Use your nerves to your advantage and draw on your experience and what got you here.”
I took a lot of pictures today so please follow the link below to the gallery. The preliminaries begin tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. This team is ready and tomorrow should be fun.
To give fans of behind the scenes look at this year’s NCAA Championships, Sports Information Director Ethan Armstrong is with the Gustavus swimmers in Indianapolis. Over the course of the four-day meet, Armstrong will be blogging, posting pictures and video, and providing day-by-day recaps of all the action.