The Yale swimming and diving teams kick off their seasons this weekend against Brown. Last year, the women’s team claimed second place for the first time in 19 years at the Ivy League Championship Meet, while the men’s team finished fourth at the same meet to extend its streak with a sixth consecutive season finishing in the top half of the Ivy League. Captains Michelle Chintanaphol ’17 and Alex Goss ’17 spoke to the News about their past experiences and outlooks on this winter.
What are you focusing on as a team this year?
Gross: The nature of college swimming is that you end up graduating a bunch of seniors, so you start off the season with a bunch of people that are returning, but also a bunch of people that you don’t really know, especially with how exactly they’ll perform in the college swimming environment. A lot of the season is sort of a process of finding out where everybody is at and what the best lineup is that we can put forward. I think we learned a ton at Army — which was our scrimmage … last Friday that both teams went to — in terms of how we’re going to approach both this weekend and the rest of the season. It’s always a big challenge in the first meet, coming out of the gate and starting at 0–0, but I think it’s a challenge everybody is ready to take down.
Chintanaphol: I think for us it’s mostly just being ready for every meet that we have during the season and ready to prepare for the championship one. We’re keeping that in mind for the future.
How are the new recruits?
Gross: Really good. In particular, the freshmen that we have on the team this year really filled some needs for us in terms of sprinting. We’ve historically had a really strong distance program and we’ve kind of felt like there had been some holes in terms of that, but I think we have a really complete and balanced team. That’s what I’m most excited about.
Chintanaphol: Same goes with us about new recruits. We have a really strong freshman class and also a transfer from University of Southern California. Everyone has been doing really well at practice, which is exciting, and pushing each other to be better and faster. I think the team is looking really great right now, and it’s exciting to see what we can do.
You guys always go on really cool retreats for winter break. What are this year’s plans?
Chintanaphol: End of December into early January we take a week where we go train elsewhere, because it would be kind of terrible to come back here with this weather and train. Last year we got to go to Puerto Rico, which was really fun. This year our team is going to Deerfield Beach, Florida, and the boy’s team is going to Plantation Beach, Florida.
Gross: We call it “Winter Training Trip,” so it sounds awesome, especially going to places like Florida or Puerto Rico or wherever. It’s pretty much a scenario where that is one of the most important training blocks for us in the whole season. On Training Trip you train a ton, you’re broken down, you’re really exhausted. It’s great that you’re in a nice location and you don’t have to worry about school — you just have your teammates there, and it’s sunny and warm — but it’s very much a business trip. We’re going there put in work to achieve our goals at the end of the season.
I know the training schedule is intense — could you outline what your average week or typical practice is like?
Chintanaphol: They’re very variable for us, we have certain days where we do either more aerobic style training or more race pace. On Mondays and Wednesdays we have double training: We have morning practice and then lift after that, which we also have on Friday. We have dry land, which is more body-weight aerobic exercises, interspersed throughout the week. The maximum number of hours for NCAA sports is 20 a week, and I think we hit that.
Gross: Our training is pretty similar to [that of the women’s team]. Seventy-five percent of our workout time is spent in the water, and the other 25 percent we spend in the weight room. We have the same weight coach, and he’s awesome. In the water, we don’t really swim with the women’s team that much, but within our own teams we do a lot of group, general aerobic work. We also break up into stroke, distance and sprint groups, because while we’re all swimmers there is an element of needing to specialize.
What does it mean for you to be captain of the swim team?
Chintanaphol: It’s such an honor and privilege to be able to help the team in different ways.
Gross: I think it’s a huge honor to be elected by your teammates. It’s also a huge responsibility in terms of size. We both have pretty big teams, 35 apiece, so that’s a lot of people. If you want to have a functioning team, you need to have everybody on the same page and that’s pretty difficult. In terms of the captainship in general, you want to do your best to represent what the team stands for and make decisions that would make the team happy. You also end up serving as a liaison between the coaching staff and the athletes to ensure a cohesive environment that is geared toward success.
How will you approach the HYP meet this year?
Chintanaphol: I’m very excited and I think that the rest of the senior class is too, since it will be our senior meet and this year it’s at home. Having it at home is especially great because it’s special to be able to have a home meet our senior year and to be able to race those great schools. They’re great competition, so I’m looking forward to it, and getting a good home crowd would be really fun.
Gross: Just like any other meet, our goal is to win. Going in line with the general goals of our team, we want to win the Ivy League and in order to do that we have to win that meet. Obviously it’s a big challenge with the teams that we’re up against, but I think it’s a challenge both teams are excited and willing to face.
What are your hopes for this season? How do you feel going into this weekend?
Gross: In terms of this weekend, I’m really excited. I think everyone’s been swimming pretty fast. The stretch of training and the beginning of the season, October in particular, is pretty difficult, so it will be nice to get to a meet and see all that hard work pay off. In terms of the season, we have tons of goals regarding what we want to do as a team and what everyone wants to do individually. My goal for the team is basically to put ourselves in a position where we can achieve everything that we are capable of.
Chintanaphol: Normally we like to take things one step at a time so I think these next three weeks will be important as a good prediction of where we can be, since we have Brown, Columbia and our mid-season meets: Ohio State for the swimmers and Virginia Tech for the divers and the guys. I think the mid-season meets will be good indicators of where we are and how hard we’ve been training. It’ll be exciting to see the results from that because I think the team is doing really well, and so hopefully things will turn out.
Gross: Going off that, swimming is very much a sport that does not cater to instant gratification. You train 20 hours a week for a whole year and if you pile on those years you have millions of hours of training for a race that’s one minute long. That projects in terms of how the season goes. Every meet is challenging, the [conference] has been improving a lot. It’s pretty much a situation where any team can win on any given day and you have to go into each meet with the mindset that we’re here to win. We need to perform our best to do that, and if you slip up you are putting yourself in a place that you don’t want to be.