Each week, Carl Samuelson, affectionately called “Sammer” by his swimmers, sits in the stands with his wife, cheering for the team he founded. He was there for the first women’s meet ever and was there last Saturday to watch the men’s and women’s swim teams beat Springfield. The match was significant because it marked the women’s 100th consecutive victory.
Decades ago, three driven female swimmers, two transfer students and one exchange student asked Sammer if they could train with the men’s junior varsity swim team. Although he could not provide female competition for these girls, Sammer accepted them.
At the end of the season, the women asked to compete at the New England Championships. After debating with the league president, the three women were allowed to represent Williams at the meet.
Sammer and his team of three drove over 350 miles to swim at the University of Maine.
Despite the small number of team members, the Williams women swam fast enough to place 13th out of 36 teams. Sammer fondly recalled that the girls sang all the way home from Maine, proud of their accomplishment.
This was the beginning of a long tradition of victory for the Williams women’s swimming program.
But more importantly, the motivation and dedication of these women has persisted, culminating in Saturday’s incredible accomplishment: the women defeated Springfield for their 100th consecutive dual meet victory.
The dual meet tradition began in 1986 against Vassar. The meet took place at Vassar and the Williams women won with ease. Sammer explained that the most important part of the meet against Vassar was the punch and cookies that the women enjoyed afterwards.
“It must have been about the socializing,” Sammer said. “The social aspect of the team is the glue that keeps this strong team together and united.”
The following year, Vassar came to Williams, and once again, the Williams women had no trouble beating Vassar. The winning tradition continued through Sammer’s reign as coach, but it didn’t stop there.
Current Head Coach Steve Kuster took over 4 years ago. Although Kuster’s training differs from Sammer’s style, Kuster has extended the winning streak over the past four years.
As Sammer explains, the women have “continued the ride,” despite trying moments.
Two years ago, the women had a close meet against Middlebury, but pulled ahead in the second half of the meet to win. Amherst has also provided competition for the Williams women.
However, the Williams teams have consistently been stronger and deeper, enabling them to continue their winning streak.
Kuster believes today’s 100th victory is “a credit to the school, the department, to Sam, but most importantly, to all the women that have participated in the program. This speaks of how well these women have been able to balance academics and a rigorous training regimen, while having fun and competing at a high level.”
“While the 100th win was exciting for this particular team,” Sarah Wilson ’04 said, “it’s more amazing to think about all the people that have contributed to this incredible winning streak.”
Co-Captain Zibby Stokes ’03 is excited about the continued possibilities of this program. “I can’t wait to see how long this will last and how far the team can take it,” Stokes said.
This meet also marks the last home meet for the senior men and women. Before the meet, the seniors were recognized for their leadership and commitment to the team and their athletic accomplishments over the last four years.
This was the first class that Kuster coached for all four years of their careers.
“I was getting a little worked up,” Kuster said. “This is the first class that I’ve spent four years with. I’ve gotten to know them the best. They are definitely going to be missed.”
The meet also touched co-captain Anne Mayall ’03.
“I have mixed emotions,” Mayall said. “I tried not to think about it being my last home meet. I’m excited about what the team has given me. The 100th win says a lot about this team.”
“For me, it was an emotional experience. It went by so quickly, the last four years,” Seth Borland ’03 remarked. “I think we helped Coach make the transition and he helped us with the transition to college. We were helping each other.”
“There is going to be a huge gap without the seniors next year,” Julie Allen ’04 said. “They’ve been an integral part of the team for the last 3 years. Plus, they had the difficult task of helping the two teams make the transition from Sammer to Steve.”
“The seniors this season have played the most important role in our team unity and success,” Wilson added. “They’re talented, fun and great leaders for the rest of us.”
Chris Vollomond-Carstens ’04 will miss the encouragement the seniors provide.
“For my three years, these guys have been great friends and great teammates. Always quick to give encouragement and support, always ones to share a joke or help you through issues,” Vollomond-Carstens said. “Because my class is so small, my interactions with this class have been extra meaningful. They will be sorely missed.”
After the ceremony, the teams prepared to swim fast against Springfield. “We swam like heroes,” Borland said.
Kuster was pleased with the women’s performance during today’s meet. Notably, Tricia Chambers ’06 had two life-time best swims in the 200 breast and in the 200 IM. Jess Yankura ’05 also achieved a life-time best in the 200 backstroke, posting a time of 2:07.9.
There were some particularly strong swims for the men too. Will Cunningham ’06 won the 400 IM with a time of 4:16.79 and the 200 free (1:45.00). Borland was a double winner, taking the 200 fly (2:00.25) and the 200 Breast (2:15.59). Nate Krissoff ’04 swam a fast 50 free, winning with a time of 22.27.
The Springfield divers provided some competition for the Ephwomen. Rachel Gealy ’04 won the 1-meter board event, and qualified for nationals on both boards. The Ephs fell short on the 3-meter, however. Springfield’s Alison Mellage, a six-time All-American, won the 3-meter, with Gealy taking second and Eph diver Caroline Crocker ’03 taking third.
In the diving events for the men, the Springfield pride took first and second on both boards, but the Eph first-years were able to snag third.
For the Ephs, John Seldon ’06 finished third on the 3-meter with a score of 184.28. Elliot Crafton ’06 finished third on the 1-meter with a score of 196.80.
The women will continue with another hard week of practice before beginning to rest and taper for the NESCAC championships in February.
Because the men’s NESCAC championship is a week after the women’s, they will not start tapering for a few weeks. “The men are still a good week or two away from resting,” Kuster said.
Both teams will take on Middlebury next weekend in Vermont.
This will be a particularly close meet for the men, who lost the NESCAC title to Middlebury last spring. But the Ephmen are ready to fight. As Borland said, “all of us will put a lot of effort into guiding this team back to the top.”