Words from the Coaches on Pool Deck at Men’s NCAA Championships

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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By Michael J. Stott.

As the men’s NCAA meet hits full stride coaches reflect upon their teams and the elements that allow athletes to strive for peak performance.

EDDIE REESE – University of Texas on the 500 free final

Swimming World: Did that swim by Clark Smith surprise you?

Eddie Reese: Clark does stuff in practice that I’ve never seen or heard of. We knew he could swim a really good one and he finally did.

SW: Was he sick last year (when he didn’t repeat as 500 free champion)?

ER: He worries a lot. And he just lost weight in last year’s meet.  He was down 15 pounds and when you are 6’10” and weigh 200 lbs., 15 lbs. are all you’ve got. He took the swim out exactly as he should have.

SW: Townley [Haas]’s second place swim, was that a surprise?

ER: Townley is just a great racer. If he’d seen Clark he’d have been closer.

SW: During diving what does a swim coach do?

ER: I watch my divers and worry about these guys in the warm down pool.

GREGG TROY, University of Florida

One of the defining moments of during Day Two finals was Coach Troy pounding the canvass barrier as Mark Szaranek surged to a first place tie in the 200 IM. Down .12 after the breaststroke leg the Florida junior rallied to tie Texas’ Will Licon in 1:40.67, helping to stake the Gators to second place after the Thursday night’s competition.

SW: You are having a great first day. What’s it mean to the team?

GT: As close as our guys are it shows them what they are capable of doing. It gives everyone a level of confidence… a new level of enthusiasm. It all started with the 800 free relay finish (third, under American record time) and carries over into today.

SW: Is there anything special you say to them?

GT: It is a continuation of what we are doing all season long. It is supposed to be enjoyable. We try to do what we are trained to do all season.

SW: It appears you are enjoying yourself.

GT: It is a little nerve-wracking, especially when guys like Mark Szaranek win the 200 IM and Caeleb Dressel (won 50 free in 18:23.) They work hard and really deserve what they get.

SW: What’s with pounding the railing with the meet program?

GT: It’s a lot of fun.

SW: How does a great first day carry over to a second and third day?

GT: You know you can do it. Every day is a new day. We’ve got to go back and get a good night’s sleep and come back with the same focus and understand it takes the same energy. It is a heck of a competition with a lot of good athletes. You can’t let it get away from you. You are only as good as your next performance.

SW: Is there one day this year that is better than another?

GT: We are pretty good across the board.

SW: How has the team been this year?

GT: We had a unique year with a lot of adversity and the guys just handled it well. I’m really proud of them. It’s a great group to be associated with.

GREG RHODENBAUGH – University of Missouri

SW: How important is the first full day?

GR: It gets you going and makes you look forward to the rest of the meet if you get off to a good start which we do just about every year. It is exciting. The 400 medley relay kind of sets the tone for what you can do in the strokes the next day and the 200 medley tomorrow. For us getting off to a good start is everything because we have fewer bullets than the bigger teams.

SW: You qualified first in the 400 medley relay.

GR: We knew we could get the splits; we just didn’t know when it was going to happen. Then we look forward to finals and maybe get a tenth or two faster on each leg. (The Tigers improved their time by .62, and fell to third after Texas broke the NCAA record and Cal moved to second. Three of four Mizzou swimmers bested prelim splits).

SW: What is it about nights that brings out the excitement?

GR: If you are a competitor nights are all about racing. Sometimes you race so hard you go faster than you think you can.

TYLER FENWICK – University of Tennessee

TF: The first full day of the meet is all about setting the tone for the rest of the meet. As an athlete and a coach, you have to have amnesia. If you have a great performance you have to look forward to the next one. If you have a performance that you’d like to change you need to learn from it and move on.  But the first day is setting a tone and getting points on the board. Getting into the competition is huge because the meet is done so quickly. It is here and then it is gone. The opportunity to get points matter.

SW: Is it harder on the coach or the athlete?

TF: Ideally it shouldn’t be hard for anyone. We do this because we love it, enjoy it and have a passion for it. At this point the preparation we have put in is everything. We are encouraging our athletes to trust that preparation and believe. There is no “hope” when you get behind the blocks. There is just getting out there and competing. If you are walking behind the blocks and hoping it is too late. It is really believing in the process and putting our athletes in the best position.

SW: In general, do coaches give any inspirational speeches before athletes come out for prelims or finals?

TF: Absolutely. This week we had Andy Coan (Tennessee 1979 NCAA 200 free champion) pass. He visited Knoxville last year when he was inducted into the Tennessee Hall of Fame. Our boys were connected with him and so he is a lot of our inspiration. His liver cancer was not obvious then. He came back recently. I texted him last week and told him I loved him. He texted me and said the same. Then a he passed a few days later. He’s in a better place now. I’m feeling for him and the Volunteer family as well.

Alumni sent in stories about Andy, i.e. coming back from a car accident, doing dryland in his hotel room before the NCAA championship, things like that.. We put them into a packet for his family. He will be missed.

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