2011-2012 Swim Season Pushes Off—Albion swim and dive looks forward to a solid year

The swim season officially started on Sept. 19, but the Albion College swim program has been gearing up since the first day the Dow’s pool was open.

The Briton’s first look at this year’s competition is a MIAA meet that will take place Sept. 22 at Holland Aquatic Center. And head coach Keith Havens is enthusiastic about this year’s squad.

“We have a fine set of returning swimmers, and also a great group of incoming freshmen,” Havens said. “There are several freshmen swimmers and divers that are going to be a big addition to our swim program.”

The Britons will look to swimmers MacKenzie Chesley, Rochester first-year, William Schmidt, Rochester sophomore, and Laura Steavenson, Ann Arbor first-year, for standout seasons.

Holly Williams, Sylvania, Ohio senior, is one of the four captains on the women’s team. She said she finds her love and enthusiasm for swimming through her “second family”.

“They’re my second family. I swim for four hours a day. It’s a team of friends who do everything together. We’ll hang out together over the weekends. These are the people I spend most of my time with,” Williams said.

Strong coaching will also provide the Brits strong footing come February. Coach Havens, who will be retiring after this season, has been the head coach for Albion College’s swim and dive program for 27 years. The team benefits from Havens’ focus on technique

“Swimming and diving are technique-orientated sports. You could have the best athlete in the world, but without the proper technique, that person isn’t going to be a good swimmer or diver,” Havens said. “Swimmers are always thinking about technique.”

“He’s (Coach Havens) one of the reasons I came to Albion to swim. He showed a lot of attention. Some coaches only cared about my times,” Brad Melpolder, Hamilton sophomore, said. “Coach Havens doesn’t just care about our times; he’s concerned with things outside of swimming.”

Williams shared his sentiments.

“You need to have the mindset that every turn counts. And to work on your kick off the wall. Or having powerful turns,” Williams said. “Swimming is a sport where, yes, you need talent, but technique is a big part of that ability to swim.”

Due to the high number of squad members, Havens holds two sections of two-hour practices a day, on top of an optional hour and a half morning practice. The goal for this season is team-wide improvement through personalized practices.

“The practices (which focus on distance repeats and sprints) cater to everyone on the team,” Melpolder said.

The preparation for the end of the season—the MIAA conference championships—starts now. These practices will continue to strengthen the Brits’ ability to throughout the season, and prepare them for critical meets in February. But the improvement will only come from hard work and a strong mentality.

“We want to have people enjoy themselves. But we want to see them get faster throughout the year, putting their best times in at the end of the season,” Havens said.

He added, “As I tell my swimmers, ‘You can’t control what your opponents do, all you can do is control what you do.’”

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Kulczycki