PHOENIX, Arizona, November 26. TODAY'S edition of The Morning Swim Show features Bentley University swimming coach Mary Kay Samko, who reached a milestone in dual meet wins last weekend.
Samko relieves the day she earned her 300th dual meet win at Bentley, and the special gesture her swimmers made to commemorate the event. She also looks back on the humble beginnings of Bentley swimming, including the first year when the team did not score a win until the end of the season, and how it has grown to include a couple of NCAA All-Americans. Bentley has excelled largely due to an upgrade in facilities, including a new pool and weight room, and Samko believes this helps the teams want to work harder. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Monday November 26, 2012. I am your host Jeff Commings. Last week Mary Kay Samko reached a major milestone in her coaching career, earning her 300th dual meet victory at Bentley University. Mary Kay Samko joins us now in the FINIS Monitor from Waltham, Massachusetts to talk about it. Coach, welcome to the show. How are you today?
Mary Kay Samko: I am good. Thank you.
Jeff: Well, congratulations on this win, 300 at Bentley University. I mean you're coach of men's and women's teams there so that is I guess that is why you are able to rack up so many over 17 years.
Mary: And that is — my son I mean that he said well mom you know you do have an advantage, you coach two teams.
Jeff: Well it is still a great feat. Let's talk about that dual meet. It was versus U Mass-Dartmouth on November 17th. Your women's team won by a score of 126 to 92. Now on the surface, probably a routine dual meet but were you thinking about this milestone throughout the day?
Mary: I really didn't realize it was about to happen until all of my alumni, or many of my alumni appeared in the stands and said oh we are here for the big event. What big event? So I knew as it was going on I guess.
Jeff: Well that must have been pretty special to see some of your past swimmers show up
.Mary: Yeah it was great.
Jeff: So tell me what the meet was like for you? I mean in terms of how your swimmers did and you know in terms of the performances outside of it being a historic day.
Mary: Well the previous weekend we swam against Brandeis University which is another – it is there in Waltham so they will be a rivalry once again. They disbanded their program for 2 years and they are back at it and they are going to look good, but both of us Brandeis and I did not have a great meet previous weekend so we were looking to Saturday to try this one a little bit faster and try to be focused and I think they brought that very well.
Jeff: And also want to mention that your men's team against you UMass Dartmouth made 301 meet wins for you.
Mary: I know. It's exciting.
Jeff: So you are over the hill. It is all downhill from here.
Mary: Well, yeah, that is probably true.
Jeff: Put this all in perspective. Like I said you have been there for 17 years. How much does this milestone mean to you?
Mary: When I came to Bentley we were a 2-year-old program. We were club for a year and a varsity team so our first year it took us until our last dual meet to win a dual meet so that was a pretty long arduous season and the following year we won a few more so it has been a climb. We started with about I think 6 women and 8 men and I now have 53 swimmers total which — so for us it is all about building the program and building at Bentley and we are real proud of what we did.
Jeff: Just want to kind of just touched on this milestone win for you again. Did they have any kind of parade, maybe celebration for you at Bentley?
Mary: Yeah. Well apparently my current team came in one of the nights last week and took a picture of the whole team with the letters 300 behind it and they all held up their fingers to 3's and zeroes and so they presented me with a big picture of the whole team with the 300 and with a brand new score board, a new Daktronic score board and they flashed a picture with congratulations on 300 wins with the picture of the team so other than that, that was great and it brought the fans to the meet as well that was really a pretty exciting and it tingles down your spine.
Jeff: That is pretty impressive. That is great to feel. Now you're division 2 school and some people might say division 2 is easier to than division 1, but I would imagine a lot of your wins over the years didn't come easy.
Mary: Well as I said early on there were none so they did and I guess what is fun about swimming is on paper, things look one way, but if you touch the wall first you get 9 points we touch the wall second we get 4 points and one tenth of a second is a difference so we talk a lot about getting your hands on the wall first about making a difference between winning and losing. Yes some are very hard fought. I love the ones that come down to last relay. We had our first meet this year was against Le Moyne College which is Northeast 10 conference rival and that came down to the men's last relay and it came down to a touch and those are the fun ones and those are the ones you remember the most too.
Jeff: Talk about the team atmosphere of their Bentley.Do the men and women train together?
Mary: Yes, we do we have got an 8 lane pool and our lands are 10 feet wide which is sort of unusual but really great. We can put 6 kids in a lane at a time. We can swim butterfly side-by-side and not hit. We have got a great training atmosphere. Big pool deck we have a space for dry land as well so we train together. We train – we sometimes have different groups training at different times. We can train specialty groups, but men and women together make it I think a little bit more competitive and a little more of a family atmosphere I guess.
Jeff: Well it was not to say that division 2 schools don't deserve great pools, they obviously do, but I mean this is kind of surprising to me to hear that a division 2 school at a kind of more tech school has put a lot of money and probably even a lot of faith in your program to create this facility for you.
Mary: Our athletic director will tell you we have one of – we have the best facilities around in our conference. We have got two turf fields. We have got other grass fields. We have got a gorgeous baseball venue. We have got this pool. We have got a varsity weight room and a weight room for our student athletes, but we are a business school as well as a liberal arts school, but we are cutting edge in a lot of things we do and sports are not left behind.
Jeff: It must make it easy for you to recruit when you bring students out for recruiting trips and they see that pool and are like where do I sign?
Mary: Well especially in the way they are in the whole lot of really nice pools and the way one because of our space disadvantage I guess. We have got Harvard and BU with gorgeous facilities and MIT, but I would say after that we are probably next around this area which is nice.
Jeff: I looked in on your roster and obviously you have a lot of kids that are from the New England area, very few from outside of there. How much do you look outside of New England for recruits?
Mary: When I first came here we were very – we were a commuter school primarily and we have changed now to almost 98% kids live on this campus, so we have evolved from New England, local New England to now more East Coast. I do, I have a boy from the Philippines which is great. I have a couple of kids from California so we are trying to branch out in that way. We are looking at some people from Texas next year. Chicago has started to be a real nice place for us to look and a lot of that is you know we like the New York metropolitan area because we can bring kids in here and we can place them in jobs in the financial markets in New York, same with Chicago and then we are trying to branch out to other places.
Jeff: Now you had two NCAA All-Americans in 2011. It was the first two for your swimming program. Are we going to see anymore of those this season?
Mary: I only hope so Jessica Hodgkin is a senior. She was our first one actually to gain All American. Anne Kaduboski was an honorable mention all American here before and then both of them made it the next year and Jess went to the meet last year, but did not play so our goal this year is to get her in the top 8 and we are working hard toward it. We also had two academic All-Americans last year. The both made provisional cuts and had GPA's over 3.6 and those were Nadine Edwards and Amanda Leigh and they are both still in the program so both of them are hoping to make All American as well.
Jeff: Well speaking of academics I mean as you have said you have got some great schools around you. You got Boston College, you got Harvard, you got all of the Ivy League Schools kind of within reach. What are the academics like there at Bentley?
Mary: We are pretty demanding academically. Actually we are our business curriculum is demanding and it prepares them for a job wherever. All of my graduates from last year are employed except for 3 who are in our 5-year business program so it is demanding academically. We give them lots of time to make sure they get their work done. That we- Bentley sets up interviews on campus with local companies and national companies as well and our kids do take advantage of that. Their focus here is their careers going forward.
Jeff: How does the rest of the season look for you not only with dual meets, but looking forward to conference? Mary: Our conference meet this year is — we usually have two and we are now going one conference meet only. It is the northeast 10 conference championship, first week in February which is very, very early, so it looks like we got to work pretty hard going up through the middle of January and taper. The disadvantage is that we hit exams around the 15th of December which cuts back a little and then we have the period where we can't practice from December 20th to 27th, so we will bring them back to campus after and have them train hard for our taper.
Jeff: Well I am sure after a historic win for you I am sure I am going to go home during that Christmas week and work even harder trying to get that, with the goal getting a conference win.
Mary: Well hopefully maybe we will keep showing them this video so they will remember that that is what they have got to do
.Jeff: Yeah, I hope that works out for you Mary Kay. Thanks so much for joining us. Congratulations on your 300 and 301st win and we look forward to maybe even win number 600 a few years down the road.
Mary: Thank you very much Jeff.
Jeff: All right so that is Mary Kay Samko joining us from Bentley College and that is going to do it for today's morning swim show, as always we invite you to join us on swimmingworld.com on Facebook or on Twitter to catch up with the latest news. I am Jeff Commings. Thanks for watching.
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