Swimming and Diving prepare for championships

By Nick Bellofatto

Maxwell Sparr/Collegian

The Massachusetts swimming and diving teams wrapped up their regular season schedules last Saturday afternoon, but they still have a great deal to accomplish in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships.

With the regular season concluded, and the A-10s about two weeks away, head coach of the Minutewomen, Bob Newcomb, explained the new training regimen that the teams have put into place.

“We are into what we now call a taper,” Newcomb said. “This is a special word that I only use this time of year, and we go from this large volume [of practice] that we were doing and we gradually taper it down.”

The idea behind the taper is to allow the swimmers to train with fewer yards, so the body can get more rest in preparation for the Championships. A full taper schedule for such an event lasts three weeks, as Wednesday marks the second week.

For distance swimmers, their usual 12,000 yards will be cut to 10,000 yards, and then 8,000 yards in order for their bodies to rest and recover.

Even though both the Minutemen and the Minutewomen had successful regular seasons, it is all about what they do, come Feb. 23 in Buffalo, N.Y.

“No races that we have done have any bearing on how we will do. It helps with the seeding, but that is it. They have to do it there,” Newcomb said. 

The meet is composed of 40 events spanning four days, and the general idea is the more athletes swimming in each of the seven sessions, the better the team is doing at the tournament. Ideally, what the coaches would like to see is their swimmers posting their best times of the season at the A-10 Championships.

“We are talking about swimming over four days with the winning team scoring between 800 and 900 points, and some teams are only being separated by 25 points.” Newcomb said. “I have seen meets won by a point or even half a point, it really is amazing how close things can be.”

Coach Newcomb also noted that the A-10 Championships harbor intensity that is unlike any of the meets the teams have taken place in thus far.

“[It’s] one of the absolute best athletic events, of all athletic events, that I have ever been [involved with],” Newcomb said regarding the A-10s.

As exciting as these Conference Championships may be, it is also a very emotional time for some of the athletes.

For many of the senior swimmers and divers, this will be the last event that they compete in. So Newcomb and the rest of the staff make sure things are standardized so the swimmers can come in, warm up and just enjoy these last few weeks of the season.

Not only have most of these swimmers been competing and challenging themselves for the last four years, but they’ve been doing it while propelling UMass to victories.

Come Feb. 23, the Minutemen will try to defend their title from last season, while the Minutewomen will go for their first win in the last 10 seasons.

“I would not sacrifice [anything] at the expense of A-10s,” Newcomb said. “It’s just not what we want to do with the program, it is all about what you do at the end of the season.”

Nicholas Bellofatto can be reached at [email protected]