MOUNT VERNON — With another year under their belts, they have done everything they can to prepare for their big test on Saturday.
Now, the next step for Mount Vernon coach Jeff Gottke and his swimmers is to knock the New Albany Eagles off their pedestal.
The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets swim team, that placed second in last year’s Ohio Capital Conference tournament, is ready to try to capture the OCC crown on Saturday (starting at 9 a.m.) In order to do that, they have to dethrone New Albany. That’s no easy task under normal circumstances. This year, however, the Jackets will have to beat New Albany and win the OCC in the Eagles’ home waters.
The Jackets have been building toward this opportunity all year, putting in a strong performance this week in a losing effort at Lexington. Although the Jackets lost to the Minutemen on Tuesday, there was much to be happy about.
Andre Dessert swam to three personal best times for the Jackets. Teammate Leila Samhat dropped four seconds off her 100 freestyle. Austin Jamieson PR’d in the 500 freestyle, shaving off six seconds, and Michael Johnson beat his best in the 100 butterfly.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Jackets qualified 13 swimmers in the Northeast Classic, which was held in Canton. Ian Richardson was second in the 50-yard freestyle, posting a steaming 21.95. He was also fifth in the 100 freestyle (48.86). Johnson Cochran, meanwhile, was ninth in the 100 breaststroke.
Both boys were also among 11 Jackets to qualify for the Ned Reeb Invitational at OSU held earlier this month. Going up against swimmers from all over Ohio, Richardson was third in the 50 free (21.66) but won the 100 free with a 47.50.
Cochran was 11th in the 100 breaststroke and 14 in the 200 medley relay.
Tate Devlin and Caroline Caldwell were also impressive. Devlin was 22nd in the 50 free and Caldwell was 33rd in the 100 breaststroke.
The Yellow Jackets relay teams were strong at OSU as well as at Worthington in a relay-only meet in mid-January. Both the boys and the girls beat Worthington Kilbourne but lost to Thomas Worthington.
All of these were dress rehearsal, but plenty has been going on backstage.
“We are beginning the final phase of our training, which is called tapering,” said Gottke. “We decrease the (training) yardage, but we keep the same intensity. We just do a lot less swimming. We’re just fine tuning all of their strokes.
Gottke expects rested bodies to drop times across the board.
“It’s a three-week taper,” said Gottke. “They’ll be doing about 40 per cent of the yardage they normally do. It everything goes right, those will be their fastest times of the season.”
Tapering is also time for another tradition — shaving.
“The boys will shave their heads,” explained Gottke. “The girls haven’t shaved their legs all season.”
They will all bleach their hair and then, after the OCC meet, they will dye it all kinds of colors. The shaving will take place the night before sectionals. Will shaved heads and legs give the Jackets better times? The jury is still out on that one.
“That’s hard to quantify,” said Gottke. “I would say there is a difference — actual as well as psychological.”
The hardest part of training is over. How each swimmer manages his or her taper will go a long way toward getting through the toughest meets of the season that are coming up.
“They should be enjoying themselves,” said Gottke. “They should feel fast in the water. They sould be confident. We just want them to have good self talk and have a positive outlook on things. That will translate into speed in the water.”