Spirit Is In the Air at CeraVe Invitational

By Swimming World Intern Sam Finston

PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 12. “There are no failures in competitive swimming, just different levels of achievement.” This is the motto that adorns the ID tags of the staff here at the CeraVe Winter Long Course Invitational. The statement is representative of good sportsmanship and pride in your team, which are both very easily spotted in the audience on all three days of this annual event.

Warm-up sessions take place to the soundtrack of Billy Joel, among other classic rock artists, until a young swimmer delivers a beautiful live performance of the national anthem at the start of Saturday’s competition. Tension was building in the crowd through the volume during the seconds following the first finalists jumping into the water. The diverse applause emanating from the audience continued to carry good wishes for each of the competing swimmers as the evening wore on. These are the cries of teams, coaches, parents and supporters from many locales in New England.

Giuseppe Calloni, the father of Scarlet Aquatics’ Johannes Calloni, said the meet is a regular part of their winter racing schedule.

“We come here every chance we get,” exclaimed Calloni as his son prepared to race. He denied any sort of nervous or uncertain feelings present at any meets, only excitement. Johannes likely hears his father cheering loudly for him during the races.

As loud as the many onlookers have been, the swimmers are showing their excitement at the edge of the Olympic-sized swimming pool just as much with far fewer words. They shake, jump and stretch in lines before their races as the time comes closer for them to dive into the waters of the Sonny Werblin Recreational Center. One would not have to listen too closely to hear the occasional scream of a coach or fellow swimmer on the sidelines encouraging those racing in the water to do their best. The results are periodically addressed over the speakers for those whose minds are lost in the watery chaos, but every name announced is sure to be followed by lots of supportive screaming.

The competing swimmers from all over the country were all very excited to attend.

“I was a little nervous,” said Elise Garcia, “but I find [the atmosphere] welcoming.” This was her first time at the CeraVe Invitational. However, this is the second year that her team, Fullerton Aquatics Swim Team (FAST) has come.

Host Berkeley Aquatic Club has a long-standing tradition that is all about cheering for and encouraging swimmers. For years, a cowbell has been used to encourage teammates as they are about to start a race. It continues to be struck with a drumstick as they are racing. This odd noisemaker graces the ears of everyone in the building, even those in the hallways outside the natatorium. The bell comes from past participants as a reminder of previous experiences and something unusual but thrilling to first-timers at the club. It adds a lot to the already-exciting atmosphere of the whole event.

Interestingly, cowbells can also be heard at the Winter Olympics every year cheering for skiers and other athletes. But a swim meet isn’t typically the place for such a noisemaker. One would expect to hear lots of whistles and, of course, the beep that signals swimmers to dive in. Roars growing in intensity as races come close and screaming teammates who either have yet to swim or already did also add to the general chaos of sounds.

While some finalists will return home victorious, others will be leaving with experience and pride for their teams. Either way, the atmosphere experienced here at Rutgers will stay in all of their hearts. For amongst the screams and anticipation, there is surely spirit.