The air was humid, and the water was cold. On the pool deck, the team laid on a blue mat and prepared for their mental strength training, well before jumping in for their warm-up laps.
As the season comes to an end, both practice and competition become a mental game.
The head swimming and diving coach at Concordia College, Anneliesse Bruns, said she has her athletes listen to a talk by a sports psychologist at this point in the season. Bruns hopes this gives them the focus to mentally prepare everyone for the biggest meet of the season.
“The strength training will help them with how to handle positive or negative self-talk, obstacles, their competitive nerves at big meets and things that pop up during race day,” said Bruns.
With the championship a few days away, the team hopes to capitalize on their mental strength.
Rachel Andersen, one of the divers on the team, is excited to have her first Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship experience after missing it last year due to the pandemic.
Like Andersen, Bruns shared the same notion about her coaching.
“Last year was my first season with the team, this year will be our first MIAC championship in two years,” said Bruns.
Since the pandemic appeared in December 2019, athletes’ lives have changed in many ways, but it especially changed in how athletes performed their practice and how they competed.
For Andersen that meant wearing a mask at all times when not in the pool.
“We had to wear masks on the pool deck when we did dryland workouts,” said Andersen. Dryland workouts include push-ups, lunges and leg lifts.
This year, the MIAC has decided to host its championship, which is held on Feb. 16-19, at the University of Minnesota, according to the MIAC website.
The championship is only being held because of the COVID health guidelines put in place. People must provide proof of full vaccination and wear masks.
In addition to the masks, the team is on the same page in regards to providing proof of vaccination.
“Showing proof of vaccination, that is no problem for me,” said first-year student Kiernan Darling, a diver.
Kaitlin Cramer, the junior who was able to have a normal season two years ago, shared similar sentiments.
“I personally think it is fair,” Cramer added.
Cramer is eager for the championship with its excitement in her mind, especially since there was no competition to end last year’s season.
“There was some fear at the beginning of the season that it was going to be canceled,” said Bruns.
Now, the team is very excited, knowing that the opportunity is within their grasp.
“I’m just thankful that we get to have the championship,” said Darling, enthusiastically.
As exciting as everyone is about the competition, the masks, however, are a little strenuous.
“We will be wearing a wet mask all day, which is great,” said Cramer sarcastically, laughing and shaking her head.
Darling, on the other hand, had a different perspective on the masks.
“I’m just glad we get to have it, even if that means we have to wear masks all the time in the facility,” added Darling.
And with their championship around the corner, this year, the team is using their last two weeks of practice for taper.
Their daily swimming yardage will decrease from 4000 yards to 1200 yards, said Bruns.
“Taper is always harder for the coaches, because of the downtime, but it is a really good time for the team to bond, feel rested and get ready to swim really fast,” said Bruns.
As everyone tapers and cuts down on their pace work, Andersen, who competes in the mile swim, will continue to work extra hard.
“Distance swimmers have to do a little bit more work, to get a feel for the race,” said Bruns.
With the rules and regulations in mind, Cramer acknowledged that this championship experience will not be perfect like the one she had two years ago.
“I’m definitely excited to have a second MIAC, last year sucked,” Cramer said. “It is as close as we can get to a normal season in a world with COVID.”
As much as Cramer does not like to wear a wet mask all day, she and the rest of the team is willing to do it for the experience, the championship excitement. While spirits on the team are elevated, the head coach is even more excited for them.
“I’m really excited, the girls have been working hard, the best part is getting to see them reap the reward they put in this season,” said Bruns.