Swim perseveres into second half of season

Men’s and Women’s Swimming ends 2022 at the Yellow Jacket Invitational hosted by Randolph-Macon College and looks towards January meets with excitement.

Head Coach Kristian Ramkvist leads Virginia Wesleyan University Swim teams into their sixth season with a hunger for improvement. Ramkvist has brought a new perspective to the VWU Swim program. This is shown by several swimmers on both the women’s and men’s teams achieving personal bests while beating University records.

The Swim teams have participated in six meets for each team this semester. The women’s team showed up strong with a 4-2 winning record and three in-conference high-point wins against Ferrum College, Randolph College and Sweet Briar College. The men’s team held a 2-4 record, with wins against Gallaudet University and Ferrum College. 

Assistant Coach Sito Arroyo compliments the intensity Ramkvist brings and gives insight into the weekly practice routines that both Swim teams face as he recounts their preparation for competition meets. 

“Our 200s group was doing a hard set during practice one day and Kristian kept saying ‘championship mindset’ and ‘pain is temporary,” Arroyo said. “I think encouragement like that is what is helping our athletes push themselves when they start to get uncomfortable.”

Progress does not happen overnight, but due to the swim team’s dedication to getting better and implementing Ramkvist’s knowledge, it has happened rapidly. 

“Looking back to where we started in September, I think our athletes and myself included have learned a lot of new stroke mechanics in the water,” Arroyo said. “Our athletes are starting to learn that they are capable of pushing themselves more than they think.”

With the women’s team placing sixth and the men’s team placing eighth in the ODAC Relays Invitational held at Washington and Lee University on Oct. 8, the Marlins know they are against some hard competition but they are eager to prove themselves. 

“We are definitely the underdogs in our conference,” junior Ariana Fletter said, “But I think we are talented with a strong work ethic so we can hold our own against the competition.” 

Even though the men’s team placed low in the ODAC Relays Invitational, they continued to celebrate each other’s achievements because the main focus for this year is improvement. At the ODAC Relays, freshman Cael Long started off the season strong by leading off the 3×100 Individual Medley Relay event with a school record-breaking time of 57.31. 

The team’s attitude towards competition can dictate how far a program can develop not only against other teams but the overall ability for the program to flourish. Coach Ramkvist is putting attention on individual improvements, in hopes they can play a vital role in setting the tone for team competition within the season. 

“One big thing I noticed about our team that I love is that we don’t take every single loss personally, we don’t let it beat us down,” Fletter said. With each meet, win or loss, the swim teams continue to look forward to the next meet and how they can enhance their individual performance. 

Change can be a divider for some, but with the addition of Coach Ramkvist, the teams have grown closer and have been able to lean on each other for support and encouragement more than any season before. 

“As a team, there is an emphasis on getting to know each other outside of the pool,” junior and men’s Captain Edward McDonald said. “Improving technically as individuals and then coming together as a team helps us thrive cohesively.” 

The women’s roster has eighteen swimmers while the men’s team only has five swimmers. “One of the biggest team goals is increasing the team size. Just building numbers of talented swimmers to keep launching our program forward,” McDonald said. 

The swim program is still in its early stages of development with both coaches putting a priority on recruiting and getting the Virginia Wesleyan name out there, partly by attending various recruiting meets. 

The men’s team having five swimmers on the roster puts them in a position where they can not rely only on athletic capabilities and talent; as they have to be versatile swimmers to compete in multiple events. “We are low in numbers but not in strength, I think we have talented athletes on the men’s side so when it comes to the championship meets we will be able to place better and potentially beat some of the teams that beat us in a dual meet,” Arroyo said.

Speaking to the future, there are high hopes for the Virginia Wesleyan swim program under the leadership of Coach Ramkvist. “I think we will continue to improve every single year,” Fletter said. “We will see our name go higher and higher in the ODAC rankings as the program advances.” 

At the Yellow Jacket Invitational hosted by Randolph-Macon College, which took place Dec. 3-4, the teams combined for 46 season best times, 23 personal best times and 10 new school records. The men finished eighth and the women finished sixth, just five points away from fifth place. 

The Marlins host two conference competition meets before they face the ODAC championships: Bridgewater College on Jan. 7 and Randolph-Macon College on Jan. 28.

By Mikayla Szudera