New coach, new season for Big Green men's swimming
Jim Wilson does not believe in taking things slowly. Despite the fact that he arrived in Hanover only two weeks ago and does not even have a house in the area, Coach Wilson is hard at work making his mark on Dartmouth's men's swimming program as the new head coach. He is determined to lead the men to improve on last year's record and performance.
So far it seems to be working.
The team is enthusiastic and working harder than any of the members recall having done in recent history.
Wilson arrived in Hanover Oct. 1 from the University of Utah and the team has practiced long hours each day since then, including morning practices four days a week and two-and-a-half-hour practices each afternoon.
Prior to the new coach's arrival, women's coach Betsy Mitchell worked with the men, which helped to prepare them for the official practices that could not begin, according to NCAA regulations, until Oct. 1.
The transition was not easy, many team members said, but the abrupt approach taken by Wilson was definitely an improvement over past seasons, when practices began very gradually and some swimmers lost interest.
"This year we jumped right into training," Co-Captain Jason Stern '94 said, "faster than we have ever before in the past. It's been great for us."
Now that the shock of the first few practices has worn off, the team eagerly anticipates the upcoming season. Although the Class of 1997 had fewer recruits than the older classes, there are many strong returning members, including a pair of school record holders from two seasons ago who chose not to compete last season. Although somewhat discouraged by a relative lack of depth, members of the team are impressed with the attitude that Wilson brings to the program.
"The mood is so much better than in past years," Co-Captain Pete Moore '94 said. "We don't have a big team, but we have a lot of talent and are very positive about the season."
The team is confident that it can improve upon last year's performances, with several experienced upperclassmen swimming. Wilson says he finds it hard to predict how the season will progress, because he left behind a very different swimming program at the University of Utah and is still adjusting to the small team at Dartmouth.
"The lack of depth does scare me a bit," Wilson said, "but we plan to build a very solid foundation this year, to help us in years to come."
As head coach of the Utes women's team since 1987 and of both men's and women's since 1990, he saw many successes, including Western Athletic Conference championships for the men and a third place finish in the High County Athletic Conference for the women which was their best finish ever in the school's history.
Xioa-Hong Wang, the 1992 Olympic silver medalist in the 200-meter butterfly, swam under Wilson's coaching at Utah. Wilson is excited to be at Dartmouth and has set a goal for the team -- to improve their standing at the Eastern Championships which includes the Ivy League schools, plus Army and Navy. He is firm in his coaching and already has gained the respect of the Dartmouth swimmers.
"He has high hopes for us," Bob Halk '94 said, "and in turn we have high hopes for ourselves."
The optimism of the swimmers and coach is marred only by their lack of divers for the upcoming season. Diving coach Ron Keenhold is disappointed in the turnout for men's diving because his top three recruits chose to attend other universities and Dartmouth was left without a men's diver.
Recently, Jeremy Turk '97 decided to dive, relieving some of Coach Keenhold's anxiety, but Keenhold hopes to attract a few more members to the men's squad. Since the diving portion of a swim meet has a score equivalent to two swimming events, it is important to have divers to participate in these events.
"Without a diver," Keenhold said, "we begin every meet at a disadvantage."
He hopes that there may be athletes interested in diving who will not hesitate to give it a try. He mentions that experience is not necessarily required, although some acrobatic inclination would be helpful.
Both Keenhold and Wilson continue to be optimistic about the men's team and their primary goal is for the men to achieve successes that they have not in the past.
Coach Wilson says his next goal is to find a place to live.