RCW: Sport Spotlight 4.4 (Swimming & Diving)
— Kansas Swim & Dive (@KUSwimDive) September 16, 2017
A post shared by Kansas Swimming and Diving (@kuswimdive) on Sep 16, 2017 at 5:43am PDT
Comfort for swimmers comes from being secure in a pool lane with friends and teammates cheering them on as they focus on what they can accomplish in that single lane. That is the beauty about swimming. It is not a contact sport and each swimmer determines how well they do.
However, contrary to popular belief, that is not always the case.
Open water swimming is a different beast and demands more physicality than swimming laps in a pool. From the start of an open water event, swimmers are bombarded with kicking bodies fighting for that prime position in the lead pack.
“The beginning was like boom!” sophomore Jenny Nusbaum said. “Everyone was getting smacked around. It was a little more intense than last year, but it was fun.”
“Last year” refers to the inaugural Collegiate Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Open Water Championships hosted by the University of Kansas. And if swimming one open water race in 2016 wasn’t enough, head coach Clark Campbell decided to host the event for the second-straight year to test his swimmers yet again in a different environment.
That environment consisted of schools and swimmers from across the country, from Alaska all the way to Florida. Ninety-six student-athletes challenged the 5,000-meter course (roughly 3.1 miles), and each other, in Lone Star Lake.
“There was a lot of kicking, getting hit in the head, and fighting people off,” Nusbaum said. “At one point, I was coughing up water.”
Swimmers embrace the challenge that it takes to endure open water swimming from start to finish.
The security of having a pool wall to kick off of, along with lines that show the swimmer they are on track in clear chlorinated water — gone. Not to mention the weather patterns that change the setting the swimmers are relying on.
“It’s very different from what you train for every day,” freshman Lauryn Parrish said. “Sight breathing; you have to look up and make sure you know where you’re going. You have a current, wind and there are people at the start clawing at you and you just tough it through. It’s really a mental game more than anything else and you’ve just got to trust your training to take you home. It was very different, very fun, and I really liked it.”
Adrenaline pushes swimmers to accomplish the task at hand, and in this case, one that is as demanding as open water swimming. At the end of the day, crossing the finish line of a 5,000-meter swim is an achievement to be proud of for any swimmer, but for the trio of KU swimmers that finished fourth, fifth and ninth, respectively, it meant a championship.