Strong leadership helps swim teams make a splash

Senior captain Julia Cunningham (above) races in a butterfly competition last year. She and the Vassar swim teams will start the 2016-17 season on Oct. 26 at Bark College. Photo courtesy of Carlisle Stockton
Senior captain Julia Cunningham (above) races in a butterfly competition last year. She and the Vassar swim teams will start the 2016-17 season on Oct. 26 at Bark College. Photo courtesy of Carlisle Stockton
Senior captain Julia Cunningham (above) races in a butterfly competition last year. She and the Vassar swim teams will start the 2016-17 season on Oct. 26 at Bark College. Photo courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Only a few weeks into the 2016-2017 season and things are already looking bright for the Vassar men’s and women’s swim team. High expectations, hard work and an incredible sea­son to follow up on are a few things pushing this team in the direction of another successful year.

Coach Lisl Prater-Lee is back for her 22nd season as the head men’s and women’s coach. Prater-Lee has helped move two women to All-American status, the most recent being se­nior Julia Cunningham, who as a junior took seventh place in the country in the 200-me­ter butterfly. Under Prater-Lee’s guidance, the men’s and women’s teams have broken 11 and 13 school records respectively since 2013. Not only has Prater-Lee produced successful swimmers, the team places immense focus on school as well as 20 swimmers last season were named Academic All- American.

“We are looking forward to small successes (i.e., staying healthy, getting stronger in the wa­ter and on the boards) leading to much bigger successes, both in terms of the group and the individuals. The women’s swim/dive team has a lot to look forward to and it’s great to see the excitement and motivation come through with the timed and competitive challenges we have had so far,” Prater-Lee iterated.

Cunningham has been a powerhouse swim­mer for the Brewer’s during her time at Vassar. Cunningham’s events include the butterfly and the IM. As a second-year captain, Cunningham is proud of how strong the team has come into the season. “We’ve been practicing hard and the team morale is high as we move into the season. Our largest class right now is the sophomores and they’ve been really stepping into their roles as upperclassmen on the team,” she noted.

The Brewers have begun preparing for their season by breaking up and racing against each other. Last week the team competed in an in­ter-squad scrimmage, which helped give the team a taste of what their first meet against Bard is going to be like. It also provided the team with some baseline times for the start of the season.

Along with the talented sophomore class, Cunningham mentioned that during their in­ter-squad meet some of the faster times came from first-years. The strong freshman class will help Cunningham to fulfill her team goal to con­tinue improving personal times as well as stand­ings against other Liberty League teams. Not to mention, the freshmen, with their initial skillset, will continue growing and establish a powerful foundation for years to come.

Although the women’s team is smaller than usual, Cunningham has high hopes for this team as she goes into her final season as a Brewer. “As a senior and second-year captain, I hope to keep the momentum moving despite our smaller team size. Regardless of the outcomes of meets, I know we will have a successful year. Right now we have a very talented squad and are posed to accomplish a lot this season,” she expressed.

Senior Chris Cerutti is back for his fourth year on the men’s side and will work with Cun­ningham as another captain. Cerutti competes in backstroke and freestyle events and has set many personal bests during his time here at Vas­sar. He is excited for the upcoming season and, along with other upperclassmen, is prepared to take on a leadership role.

“As a senior, I have the wonderful opportu­nity to provide guidance and leadership to my fellow teammates. I definitely feel adequately prepared to step into this role with the support of my coaches, Lisl & Danny, and my fellow captains and seniors,” Cerutti mentioned. “The team truly fuels my motivation and makes me strive to be a better leader and swimmer. I hope to be able to do everything in my capacity to encourage and support my fellow teammates throughout the course of the season both in and out of the pool.”

Like Cunningham, Cerutti is confident about the upcoming season because morale is high and the team has had a positive mindset each day of training. Building off of such great energy, these past few weeks the team has been working to improve all aspects of their skills. “The team has been focusing on details in our strokes (things like stroke count, underwater streamlines and kick, and not breathing in/out of our walls) be­cause now is the time to be emphasizing these seemingly minute parts of our swimming in or­der to set up a solid foundation for the rest of our practices and season,” Cerutti specified.

Freshman breaststroke swimmer Matthew Imiolek reiterates how the upperclassmen have already impacted his experience at Vassar. “For me personally, Chris, Anthony Walker and Julia stand out to me the most because they swim with me in my lane and push me to try harder each day. Because of their leadership, I feel I am working harder than ever before and that over­all, the team is very connected and in a lot of ways family-like, in a sport which has the poten­tial to be very individualistic,” Imiolek stated.

Imiolek hasn’t had trouble adjusting to the practice schedule as it’s been similar to his high school training. “As a whole, the team is current­ly doing a lot of base work for later in the sea­son, such as fixing technique issues and working on endurance,” Imiolek noted. “We have some intense practices to prepare us for later in the season and other practices that show us where we’re standing at this point in the season com­pared to previous years at this time.”

“Overall, the men’s swim/dive program should be stronger in 2016-2017 so we hope that can translate into even more competitive dual meets and higher team placing at Liberty League championships and UNYSCSA championships,” Prater-Lee expressed. “We are looking forward to the men getting faster in the training pool and taking that competitive drive to the dual meets and championship meets this season.”

With the help of experienced upperclassmen and freshmen who are already showing poten­tial to impact the team, the Vassar College swim crew is steadily on track for another historic season.

The women’s and men’s swimming and div­ing teams will kick off their season opener in two weeks on Wednesday, Oct. 26 at Bard Col­lege at 6 p.m.

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