This past weekend, the Tufts swimming and diving team competed in a special intrasquad race to highlight the senior class and celebrate the team’s hard work and dedication in a year without competition. During pre-COVID-19 times, the swim season typically lasts from November to March, ending in late March with the season’s pinnacle: the NCAA Div. III National Championships. This year’s swim team was denied that opportunity because of the pandemic. However, it has practiced in the Hamilton Pool during both the fall and spring. This past weekend provided an opportunity for the swimmers to showcase their hard work and put it to the test by competing against one another. The team competed for three days during its typical practice times. Each individual raced in one or two events of their choice. In addition to allowing the team members to compete, the weekend was about celebrating a senior class that has dedicated so much to the program over the past four years.
This event was a special occasion for the 11 seniors on each of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams. Banners highlighting the Class of 2021 lined the lawn outside of the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center. Swimmers excitedly entered the building, ready to compete. Senior Nathan Mitchell competed in the 200- and 100-yard backstroke.
“On Saturday, we had our senior recognition ceremony. The pool was decorated with streamers, posters, and silly fatheads of each senior. It’s a tradition we do every year, and while many of our traditions had to be cut due to COVID-19, it was great to see that the juniors kept this tradition alive for our meet,” Mitchell said. “After we raced, we went up to the film and media room to watch a video slideshow with video messages from our teammates and parents. We stayed socially distant and cheered with our masks on. The only time we took our masks off was behind the blocks right before our race. It definitely felt different than a normal meet, but it was really awesome to feel the energy that Hamilton Pool embodies again.”
The positive energy was felt by other swimmers in the Class of 2021.
“My favorite part of the weekend was the chance to be together as one united team again for the first time since last March,” senior Emma Seymour said. “Cheering, laughing, and enjoying my teammates’ company felt so wildly special and something I’ll cherish for years to come.”
Given that the 2020–21 team was unable to be entirely together before this weekend, many of the first-year swimmers did not have the opportunity to get to know the upperclassmen. However, the team culture that the seniors have helped establish in their four years at Tufts created a fun and competitive atmosphere where all team members felt united and supported by one another.
“Some of my teammates swam longer events like the 1000-yard freestyle and they had people running up and down the side of the pool cheering throughout all 40 laps. When I swam, I heard even teammates I hadn’t gotten the chance to know all that well yet screaming my name. Despite our own results, we would get excited about someone else’s as if they were our own,” first-year Elise Fong said.
Even though the seniors will be graduating soon, they will leave a lasting legacy on the program.
“We are an eclectic mix of personalities. Because of this, I believe we’ve shown our teammates to embrace their individuality, explore themselves and stay true to their underlying beliefs — something easier said than done,” Seymour said.
First-years have certainly felt this impact.
“I’m lucky to be on a team where people are constantly supporting and pushing each other through each and every grueling practice. This weekend was a chance for me to see people enjoying the challenge together on another level. No matter what shape anyone was in, everyone raced their all while rooting for one another,” Fong said. “With constant setbacks and comebacks, having a team who prioritizes pushing and encouraging one another is such an important aspect of success.”
With the team’s culture firmly intact, Tufts swimmers are looking to continue their success into the next competition season. Before then, the team will be competing in another intrasquad meet in the coming weeks, for which they will be putting on their special racing suits. This will serve as another opportunity for team members to display their passion and commitment to their sport and to one another.