Duke Swimming Prepares for Big Showing At Olympic Trials

Photo Courtesy: Reagan Lunn

Ashleigh Shanley, Swimming World Intern

When most people hear about Duke University Athletics, their first thought is typically Duke Basketball.  However, after one of their best seasons in school history, and top 25 rankings during the college season, Duke Swimming is garnering more attention in both the world of Duke Athletics and that of college swimming.

After the women’s team finished sixth at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, and the men’s team finished seventh, Duke continued to excel when the team brought seven women and seven men to the NCAA Championship meets.

Yet, since the college season has ended and the long course season started, Duke has continued to capture attention at various meets leading up to the 2016 Olympic Trials.

With multiple swimmers and future Blue Devils competing at the various meets throughout the Arena Pro Swim Series, Duke will continue their successful year with one of the biggest teams the combined program has ever taken to the Olympic Trials.  The team currently has 13 athletes and multiple incoming freshman who will represent both Duke and various club teams at the meet.

I took a look at what taper time looks like for the Duke Swim Team by talking to rising seniors Michael Miller and Maddie Rusch.

As a swimmer, taper time seems to be everyone’s favorite because it means extra sleep, more rest during practice, and having Mom and Dad cater to you at home.  However, from club team to college team to our US National team, taper has some similarities, but it also has unique differences depending on who you are training with.

Although Miller and Rusch say the basis of taper is not necessarily different than during high school, they both have grown to have a much better understanding of the importance of tapering, which makes them enjoy the process more.

“I still really like getting the mornings off to sleep in, and only having to work in the afternoons,” Miller said. “But I also like how you feel in the water.  How you feel on top of the water and how your strokes feel like they’re coming together and you’re ready to swim fast.”

Similarly, Rucsh said she likes getting the mornings off, but mostly enjoys doing a lot more sprinting and quality work instead of higher yardage.  She said at this point in the season she feels like she has more energy, and it allows her to focus more on the details during practice.

Photo Courtesy: Duke Athletics

Photo Courtesy: Duke Athletics

Head coach Dan Colella always stresses that taper is the time to focus on the details, and fine tune the small parts of your race that can add up.  And after talking to Miller and Rusch, it is clear this philosophy has settled into both of the rising seniors’ taper mentalities.

“You have to focus on all the small things that you can really drop time on like the turns and holding streamlines and your starts,” Miller said.  “But it’s important to remember that every day you’re not going to feel your best, and if you don’t feel your best you have to remember that you’re still prepared and ready to swim fast.”

Like Miller, the idea of how you “feel” in the water is something that was new to Rusch when she tapered with Duke for the first time.

“Starting freshman year, because practice was so different and taper was so different, I would get freaked out when I started to feel bad in the water,” Rusch said. “But now swimming for Duke for three full years, I know when I’m supposed to feel bad and when I’m supposed to feel really great.”

As two of the senior leaders for Duke’s Olympic Trials team, both Miller and Rusch are more than excited to have a strong team showing at the meet, and represent their school with pride.

“I’m just really excited to have a team presence because we’re going to have a big group so I think it’s going to be really fun having a team, and being able to cheer for one another as a big group,” Rusch said.”  “And just making everybody know about the Duke name, and that we’re growing and rising; I think it’s gonna be a really fun meet.”

After competing in multiple summer meets for Duke that only a few swimmers would travel to, Miller said he is mostly looking forward to going with a lot of people and having them to hang out with in between sessions and to cheer on.

“It’ll be nice to constantly have people to talk to, and have a roommate, and hang out with the team while you’re also in a really cool environment,” Miller said.

As trials gets closer and closer, and the taper becomes more real, the nerves can start to rise.  But for the Duke swim team, there is just excitement and energy in the air.

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