Holy Cross Men's Swimming Diary: In The Fast Lane With Shannon Sweeney

Shannon Sweeney

Diary Entries
March 12, 2006
February 15, 2006
January 16, 2006
November 25, 2005
October 28, 2005
September 30, 2005

March 12, 2006

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the Holy Cross swimmers ended their 2005-2006 season. The season lasted six months and included 12 hard-swam meets and many high points, despite a losing record. I personally capped off my fifth season, one in which I ultimately achieved personal records in every event I swam this season.

We made the trek to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on Wednesday, Feb. 22 Feb, in a not-so-fast nine hours. We had a final warm up in the very impressive Navy pool and checked into the hotel. Next, we had a pasta dinner at the hotel and a team meeting with the coaches. Every year, the juniors are responsible for making that year's Psych Tape, which is supposed to look at the funnier, more humbling moments of the season. This year, the juniors did a great job by adding a photo slide show. After watching that, the rest of the night consisted of shaving down for the next day's trials. Technically it is possible to wear a cap on your head when you swim instead of shaving your head to the skin, but the latter is much more fun to do.

The way the schedule for all three days worked was that the time trials were in the morning, followed in the evening by relays and final heats of the morning events. The time in between sessions was spent grabbing some lunch, a nap or doing some homework. Fortunately for me, my parents came down to watch all three days, so I got to eat lunch in Annapolis with them.

Each swimmer was allowed to pick three individual events to swim in, so I picked one event for each day. The first day (Thursday) I swam the 50 freestyle and even though I got my best time of the season, it was .02 seconds short of the time I had hoped to get. In short, I was not pleased with how I did the first day. The next day, I swam the 100 backstroke. I decided ultimately to do that instead of the 200 freestyle because I did backstroke at least once in every meet this season and, like I said in my last article, I am now a backstroker whether I like it or not. I was very nervous going into the race because my times had been inconsistent all season and all my times were slower than my championship race last year. In the end, I got a personal record with a time of 1:12.31. This was my fastest time all season, as well as two seconds faster than my Patriots time from last year. Unfortunately, at the time I thought my time was two seconds slower, so I did not realize, how well I did until I came home and checked my personal records. You can imagine how much pressure I felt going into the final day, thinking I did badly in my first two races and now only having one more chance to end the season on a high note. I swam the 100 freestyle on Saturday morning and besides swimming my fastest time ever in that event (55.27), I was able to finally break 26 seconds in the first 50 yards of that race (25.95). Even though that time does not count for the individual event, I at least know I was able to swim that time besides doing it in a relay, which normally is a few hundredths of a second faster due to the faster start. One of my teammates told me that, "[I] looked like a real swimmer." After that race, I could not stop smiling for the rest of the day. I was able to completely blow away my previous fastest time in that event (by more than 2.5 seconds) and end my season on a very high note.

For lunch that day we had team and family meal at the Officers' Club on the Academy grounds. It was very classy (guys had to wear shirt and tie) and the lunch itself was delicious. After lunch, some photos, and saying goodbye to my parents, we went back to the pool to cheer for those swimming in the 1650 Freestyle. I was a lap counter for Amanda Dugan, who, thanks to me, dominated the race and convincingly beat her seed-time. Because of awards presentations, the evening session was quite longer than the previous two, but once it was over, we finally hoped onto our luxurious charter bus and made our way back to Worcester. Even though this is my last entry for this year, the team is already working for next season. We will continue to lift in the off-season, as well as swimming. I personally hope to work on my technique for all of my strokes, while adding in running and strength conditioning.

Like always, I want to give a few shout outs before signing off. First, thanks Mom and Dad for being able to attend the three day event. The next one goes to Mike Marquet and his grandmother for being able to pull together the team lunch at the "O" Club. Once again, thanks Caitlin Kean for making my articles readable to others. Finally, I want to thank the senior captains and the rest of the team for making 2005-2006 such a great season. I honestly cannot imagine what my college life would be like without being a swimmer and I am already excited for next year. Check back in September for my first entry of the 2006-2007 season.

Thanks for stopping by,
Shannon Sweeney

 

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February 15, 2006

Get comfortable, everybody, this is my longest article yet. Sorry to all of my fans for the delay.

On January 21st, your Crusader Swimmers competed against fellow Jesuit school, Fairfield University. We were looking to redeem ourselves after that terrible loss to Boston U. the week before. A bright side to the meet was that I got to see my friend Sean McGonigle, who swims for FU; the bad news is that he won first place in all three of his individuals, and in the process racked up 27 points against us. Even with changing from yards to meters during practice to get ready for Fairfield's pool and watching a very inspirational movie on the way to the meet (The Delta Force starring Chuck Norris), we were unable to get enough first place victories to edge out the Stags. When the meet was over, the team and parents in attendance were treated to a pizza party, compliments of the Holy Cross Club of Fairfield County. Special thanks to the Holy Cross alumni for organizing that event.

As a side note, I was hoping that when I "volunteered" to swim backstroke last year, it would only be a temporary position until we got some more backstrokers on the team. I have swam in an individual backstroke event in almost every meet this season, and now understand that I can no longer get away with just doing freestyle anymore. With that said, I battled once again the 200 meter backstroke, and as in the past, that race kicked my butt (final time of 3:08.26). I attributed my not-so-good time to the fact that I had to be a lap counter for Steve Dutton while he did the 800 meter freestyle (32 laps). I tend to favor my right arm when counting laps, and think I started to come down with tennis elbow from doing that. That last one was a poor attempt at humor on my part and I apologize for it.

The next week we hosted Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Clark University for the 2006 Worcester City Championship. Just like the URI meet, this was a two-day event with a session on Friday night and two sessions on Saturday. After placing second in the 400 medley relay, we were able to end the first session on a good note by winning the 200 freestyle relay. I swam backstroke in the medley as well as a 50 free in the last relay. I was able to finally break 26 seconds in that relay with a time of 25.79. Being that my times since getting back from the St. Croix trip had not been improving and I have been trying to get under 26 seconds since my senior year in high school, I was thrilled when I found out my time.

Going into the second session the next morning, we were down two points to WPI and 12 points ahead of Clark. Our "A" relay started the day off right by taking first place in the 200 medley relay. We kept on rolling that morning by taking first place in two individual events, as well as getting first, second and third in the 50 freestyle to end the second session 22 points ahead of WPI and at this point, well ahead of Clark. We did not have much down time between the morning and afternoon sessions, but enough to get food that did not include the words "Power" or "bar" (I hope I do not get sued for that), and a quick nap.

I knew going into the weekend that it would be close between us and WPI. I absolutely did not expect that the decision would come down to the final race of the day. Going into the final event, the 400 yard freestyle relay, we were ahead of WPI by one point. WPI finished first and fourth, and Holy Cross second and third. When it was all said and done, we lost the meet by one point. One point. That was the first time I had seen or been a part of a meet where the margin of victory was that close. Would I ever see another meet that close again? (Blatant attempt at foreshadowing on my part)

After a well needed day off on Sunday, we hit the pool again the next day to get ready to host UConn on Tuesday. Since it was the last home meet for the seniors, we had a ceremony before the meet started. "Fast" does not to begin to describe their team. The pounding they gave us, plus the already bitter feeling we had after the one-point heartbreaker we experienced on Saturday and the knowledge that I had hours of Physics homework to do, made for a disappointing Tuesday evening.

Four days later we trekked down to the great state of New Jersey (yes, it is sarcasm) to battle the Peacocks of St. Peter's College. Since Chuck Norris did not motivate us properly the first time, we decided to give Rocky IV, starring Sly Stallone, a try. After almost four hours on the overly heated bus, we finally made it to the pool. Only one word can describe the outcome of the meet: Victory. We ruffled their feathers in the first two events by taking first in the 200 medley relay, and going first, second and third in the 1000. We also got first place in the 100 free, as well as getting second and third in many events to hold off St. Peter's and get our first win of the season.

I still cannot decide if the feeling I felt after the meet was joy or relief, but I can definitely say I was tired. After getting my best 50 back time in the medley relay, I made my debut in the 200 individual medley. When assistant coach Mike Emmons told me his life-long dream of me being a competitive 200 IM'er by the time I was a senior, I tried not to laugh. Little did I know that he was in fact not joking, I learned this when he signed me up for it. The end result: I was dog tired, but I actually liked swimming it. I definitely plan on working on my form (for all four strokes) in the off-season so that I can possibly get a somewhat respectable time next year. I finished off the day by going second in the 800 freestyle relay. I was able to drop two seconds off my 200 free time, so it was a great meet all around. Besides a win, swimming better times, and the chance to visit Jersey City (and make it out alive), I got to swim in front of my family! My parents drove up from Philly to see the meet, along with my oldest brother, Charles, and my oldest niece, Jackie. A swimmer herself, Jackie made it very clear that she has no interest in ever swimming the 1000 or 1650 free (40 and 66 laps respectively). Clearly, this shows she is a smart girl.

After a well-deserved day off on Sunday and a tough practice on Monday, we took to the water for the last regular-season meet, this time against Boston College. Unfortunately getting clobbered was not the way we wanted to end the season before championships but that was the sad reality. I swam the 100 back in the medley relay, the 200 backstroke, and finished off the meet anchoring the 400 freestyle relay. As sore as I was going into the meet, I was surprised to only be a second off my season times for both backstroke events. Unfortunately, I continued my streak of lack-luster performances in the 100 free. By November of this year, I had dropped three seconds off my best 100 free time from last season, but lately have added that time back on. My hope is that by the time Patriot League Championships come around, I will be able to go in and beat my seed time.

As always, I would like to take the time to give some shout-outs to certain members of the Holy Cross swimming family. First, thanks again to the Holy Cross Club of Fairfield for their hospitality after the FU meet. Next, thanks to the many young alumni who made it out for the St. Peter's and Boston College meets. As much as we appreciate your enthusiasm, donations to our men's program will also be graciously accepted. "Awesome People of the Year" awards go to the Dugan family for having both the men's and women's teams and our families over to their house for dinner after the St. Peter's meet. Congratulations to lady swimmer Maddie Alanis for being named Crusader of the Week for swimming for three first place finishes and three meet records in the Worcester City Championship. Finally, congrats to the women's team for their impressive victories in the Worcester City Championship and against St. Peter's on Feb 4th.

My next, and sadly last article of the season will be after the 2006 Patriot League Swimming and Diving Championship. This year they are being held at the U.S. Naval Academy February 23rd-25th.

Thanks for stopping by,
Shannon Sweeney

 

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January 16, 2006

In our final competition of 2005, we traveled to the University of Rhode Island on the weekend of Dec. 2 for a two-day meet against URI, Maine and Providence. The first session was held Friday night, and the other two were Saturday morning and afternoon. A plus to having a two-day meet was that it was an opportunity for us to swim more events than we would during a normal meet. On the other hand, by the time that final session got underway Saturday afternoon, those of us who still had to swim were exhausted. Coach Parenteau wisely pointed out that this type of meet was good preparation for Patriot League Championship, a three-day meet in February with morning and evening sessions each day. In the Saturday morning session I made my career debut in the 100 breaststroke. Just like my 50 fly at the alumni meet, this race hurt me to swim and others to watch. I made it through the race without being disqualified (my legs like to flutter kick during breaststroke, instead of doing breaststroke kick), and finished with much applause from the audience (yes, out of pity). I also had the privilege of swimming the 500 freestyle during the afternoon session, and with the help of junior Brian "I really wish I lived in Philadelphia, and not its suburbs" Jackson counting for me, I was able to shave off 40 seconds from my seed time. I swam the same race at URI last year but had no idea how to pace myself, so Jackson and I planned what times I wanted to get ahead of time. As much as I was dreading the race, actually swimming it was not too bad, and I definitely would not mind doing it in future meets. I am even entertaining the possibility of swimming the 500 at Patriots this year to see if I can take off even more time. In all, the men's team came in fourth place that weekend, and came back to Worcester to gear up for the end of the semester.

Once that meet was over we had to jump right into studying for finals. Being that coach Parenteau strongly believes in the fact that we are students first and athletes second, normal practice times were not held the last week and a half of school. Everyone still had to lift twice a week, but had to schedule time on our own to come up to the pool to swim. Most people did this by coordinating convenient times with other swimmers and doing workouts together. Truth be told, I was thankful for being able to head up to the pool after studying all day and give my thinking muscle a break. The 10 or so of us who went in the late afternoon to swim did a long warm up, followed by leg strength conditioning and hand-eye coordination drills in the deep end for about an hour and a half.

After surviving, I mean dominating, my finals, I got to spend a wonderful two weeks at home. I was fortunate enough to see my alma mater, St. Joe's Prep, compete and win one of their swim meets in December. I also practiced with the team most of the time that I was home. Knowing that the training trip was coming up in early January, and that we would be swimming 10,000-plus meters a day, I wanted to be in good swimming shape. A lot of swimmers return to their high school/club teams because it is extremely lonely and hard to push yourself when you are alone. It also is easier for me to swim at The Prep because the old ladies who float at the YMCA get in the way when I try to do laps. Being home was great, but it definitely went by fast.

On Jan. 3 I made my triumphant return to Worcester in preparation for our training trip. We flew to St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, for eight days of 80 degree weather and plenty of sun. I am no expert in meteorology, but compared to winter in Worcester, I think that is pretty good. Coach Parenteau did a great job of getting us good practice times in the morning and afternoon (we had to share the pool with three other schools) which made training easier. The pool in St. Croix (1 lap = 50 meters), is unlike the pool at Holy Cross (1 lap = 25 yards). Once we got used to swimming in a much longer pool I definitely thought it was better than the normal 25-yard pool. The first three days consisted of a two hour practice in the morning and afternoon. The morning of the fourth day was spent participating in a one-mile ocean swim sponsored by the St. Croix Dolphins Swim Team. The water was very rough compared to last year and made breathing more difficult. Being that my sense of direction is somewhat lacking, I kept zig-zaging back and forth in the water, instead of swimming straight. Eventually I finished and the team enjoyed a well-earned and much needed afternoon off from practice. After spending a full day off the next day at a resort beach on the other side of the island, we hit the pool hard for two more days of double practices before returning to the oasis that is Worcester.

Two days after coming back from the trip we played host to Boston University in our first meet of the second semester. Besides losing to BU, the meet was dull and our team lacked the luster that normally can be seen on meet days. I do not know if everyone was worn out from the training trip or what, but on the whole, no one was happy with their event times that day.

Before concluding my article, it is time once again for this entry's shout outs. First, I want to thank the Prep Swim Team for letting me swim with them over Christmas. Next, congratulations to co-captain Emily Ferris of the women's team for being named Crusader of the Week for the week of Dec. 5. Finally, congrats to coach Parenteau for finishing first in the "senior citizen" age bracket in the ocean swim, and my friend Jeff Jakob (Colgate '08) for finishing 10th overall in that race as well.

Next up for Holy Cross is Fairfield University on Jan. 21, followed by the Worcester City Championship the weekend of the Jan. 27.

Thanks for stopping by,
Shannon Sweeney

 

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November 25, 2005

The men's swim team has been quite busy in the pool since my last entry. Our second meet (and quite possibly one of the biggest ones of the season) was against the University of New Hampshire, and it was a heartbreaker. We increased yardage the week before the meet, and tapered back down a little bit a few days before meet. The senior swimmers worked with the coaches to make what we hoped to be a winning game plan. In the end, however, UNH won the meet with some of their guys swimming times 3-5 seconds faster than their seed times. We swam hard but not hard enough to edge out the first place points needed to win the meet. It was a tough loss for everyone to take, because we had been preparing for two weeks for that one meet, and still could not edge out UNH for the victory.

Even with the loss to UNH we had to bounce back and get ready for our second home meet of the season, this time against Army. They are a very fast team and always a contender at the Patriot League Championship. It is good for us to swim them though, because having good competition in the pool is a motivator to swim faster. It was a big meet for me, because I got to swim four events; two of these were the 50 backstroke, which I got my first times in for this season. My Mom had off for Veterans' Day, so she was able to drive up for the night with other family members to see me swim. As always it was great to have visitors, especially when they cheered for me, and took my friends and me out to dinner that night, and breakfast the next morning!

The day after the Army meet we had the first ever Holy Cross Alumni Swim Meet. One of Holy Cross Athletics' biggest supporters, Mr. Bud Ryan '51, was in attendance. He was not a swimmer, but had a son who was on the team. He informed me that the first attempt at having an Alumni meet was in 1983, but a snow storm prevented it from taking place. With a few team record-holding alumni returning to Mount St. James, those of us on the current team had our work cut out for us. I swam the 50 butterfly for the first time, and I ended up missing the pool record by .02 seconds... Actually, I was not even close, and in fact the race hurt a lot. It hurt me to swim, and for everyone else to watch, although I think my first version of events sounds a lot better. I am not really sure if there was a final score, but I think it could have gone either way. After the meet the Alumni and their families joined the current team for dinner. There was a good mix of young and old alumni, and hopefully we will get an even larger crowd next year!

Our next meet two meets were home ones; the first one was against Providence on November 16 and the other against Maine on November 20. The Providence meet was another meet that had potential to come down to the last race. Like the one against UNH unfortunately, we were once again not able to squeeze out the first place finishes needed to get the win. No lie, Maine beat us pretty soundly, but we will get another chance at them at the University of Rhode Island Invitational the weekend of December 2. The URI meet will be our last competition of the semester so we are looking to make it a good one.

You can definitely see the improvements made by the team from last year, but we are just continuing to miss out on the big points that come with first place finishes. The large freshmen class has added depth to the team, which is shown by the many more points we are scoring in meets. Hopefully by keeping up with the hard work outs and lifting sessions, we will get over the hurdle and start winning more races. Before I wrap things up I would like to take this time to congratulate the women's team for their impressive victory against Siena on November 2, and their tie with Providence on November 16. Keep it up, ladies! Also, thanks again to all the former swimmers who came back to Worcester for the Alumni meet. I also want to give a shout out to my buddy Caitlin Kean '08, who proofreads all of my articles before I submit them. Thanks to her all of my loyal fans are able to read and understand what I write. Big congratulations go to my brother, Kyle, for being accepted to Penn State University. On behalf of the Holy Cross Swimmers, I want to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to the millions of people who read my articles.

Thanks for stopping by,
Shannon Sweeney

 

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October 28, 2005

Besides sore shoulders and legs, swimming can eventually take its toll mentally on an athlete. One of the hardest parts of the season is the stretch of weeks leading up to the first meet. As practices get harder and with faster intervals, knowing that the start of the season is still many weeks away can be very frustrating. The coaches and captains have been trying their best not to repeat practices too much so we are not doing the same workout everyday. I really like going to coach Emmons' Wednesday morning workouts because he makes them challenging but different from what we do during the afternoon practices.

Mount St. James could have been confused for a ghost-town the Friday afternoon of Columbus Day weekend. Most of the Holy Cross student body took advantage of the four day weekend and went home. Those of us who swim spent the weekend on campus practicing twice a day for most of the break. Even with the tough practices and not being able to go home to wonderful Philadelphia, I still had a great weekend. Aside from hanging out with the team away from the pool, I was able to catch up on sleep, homework and even watch a couple of movies.

This year, Parents' Weekend was the weekend of October 21-23. Parents and siblings turned out in large numbers for the traditional inter-squad meet formally known as "Purple vs. White." This year the men's team battled the women, unlike years past when we would mix both teams and one half would swim against the other. Since I am not from the area, this was one of the few chances that my parents got to see me swim, so I was pretty excited for it. The meet also gave the coaches and captains a chance to get times for the new swimmers, so they could put together the best line up for the first meet. Between swimming and studying for midterms, I had definitely been stressing out, so I was especially grateful that my parents were able to make it up for the weekend. Unfortunately my younger brother, Kyle, was not able to come with them, but he promised to visit in the spring. My mom and dad spoiled me by taking me out to dinner Friday and Saturday night and bringing up much needed warm clothes from home.

This past Wednesday, the Crusader swimmers finally opened up the season, playing host to a very talented Springfield College team. Even though we lost the meet, I feel that we started the season in a very positive light. Looking around the pool deck before the meet, you could see the intense focus on the faces of all the guys. We came ready to work, and everyone swam hard that evening. We encouraged each other through the races, and congratulated everyone after their swims. I got to swim the 100-yard freestyle three times in three different events that evening. My best time from last season was a 1:00.71, and my seed time from the time trial a week and a half before was a 1:04. I beat both times in all three races with a 59.50 in the 400 medley relay, a 1:00.37 in the 100 free, and a 59.69 in the 400 free relay. I could not have imagined starting off the season on such a good note personally. I want to use these times to build up my endurance, so I can make my times faster throughout the season.

A student-athlete has two primary responsibilities: performing the best he can for his team, and for himself in the classroom. Starting off the year on the wrong foot academically can definitely set you back for the rest of the semester, and I found this out the hard way. After not doing so well on the first test in some of my classes, I have been working hard to bring my grades back up. This includes spending many Friday nights in the room doing work and organizing notes. I have been successful so far, and hope that by the end of the semester that extra time put in will have made up for my slip-ups early on.

I want to take this time to give some shout outs to some people so they feel cool. First up once again, is my parents for such a great time when they came up for Parents' Weekend. The next, goes to the swimmers of St. Joe's Prep who start their season soon. The third shout out goes to my roommate Jimmy Alexander '08, for being one of my biggest fans. Lastly, I want to say hello to fellow student-athlete Mike Kearney `08 of Fordham University, who runs on the track almost as fast as he runs his mouth (kidding, of course).

Up next for the Holy Cross swimmers is the University of New Hampshire on November 3, followed by Army on November 11.

Once again, thanks for stopping by,
Shannon Sweeney

 

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September 30, 2005

Hi, everybody, my name is Shannon Sweeney and I will be writing this season for the men's swimming team here at Holy Cross. I am a Psychology major from Philadelphia, Pa.,and this is my fifth year swimming. I am also in the Navy ROTC (along with four other swimmers) and I think it is great. Swimming has helped me manage my time wisely in regards to doing homework. It's also good after a long, hard day to just hit the water for a few hours and let off some steam.

I started swimming my sophomore year at St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia expecting to play around in the pool for an hour everyday after school; I got a rude awakening after the first day when I could barely make it to the other end of the pool and back. I realized how serious the sport was but loved being on the team and getting to compete in meets. I set personal records all three years, and by the time I was a senior I was voted a captain for that year's team.

I like to think of myself as a "utility swimmer." I did only freestyle at The Prep, but had to do backstroke for the first time last year and now do those events at meets too. I did everything from 50s and 100s to 200s and 500s. I am currently working with new assistant coach Mike Emmons on my breaststroke and would like to do that in a meet sometime.

I have been looking forward to this season since last year's Patriot League Championship. With the addition of 12 highly-talented freshmen, assistant coach Emmons, a new team weight lifting program, and a new parents' booster club, how can you not be excited to be a part of this team? With our only diver graduating last year, our team was in quite the pickle, because without a diving program we would automatically start every meet this season down many points. Our problem was solved however, when senior rookie Andy Lovley joined the team in September.

I look forward to reporting on our success this season. In the meantime it's swim, swim, swim until our first meet against Springfield College on October 26th.

Thanks for stopping by,
Shannon Sweeney

 

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