The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Swimming looks to finish strong in final meets

If you walked into Ray Obermiller pool last week, you would be a witness to a rare sight—divers diving in swim caps. If you had asked one of these divers why they were wearing these swim caps which they obviously didn’t need, they would point to a short, unassuming diver in a gray cap with massive amounts of facial hair. 

His name is Nick Smith ‘10 and his reason? To protect his dreadlocks from falling out. The other divers simply followed his practical and fashionable lead.  

Smith and the rest of the class of ‘10 will be leading the Grinnell Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving team to the Midwest Conference Championship this weekend in Appleton, Wisc. It will be the final meet for Smith and his fellow seniors, who have never lost a Championship in their four years at Grinnell. Nick joined the team to follow the lead of his brother, Garnet Smith ‘08, who was already on the team. 

“I decided to join the team because I had done diving in high school, I already had a brother on the team, and I just really liked the people,” Smith said. 

Originally a gymnast, Nick discovered diving in high school at the suggestion of his brother. After watching a practice and chatting with the diving team during a college visit, Nick knew that he wanted to be part of the team Since then, Nick has become nothing more than one of the most loved and crucial parts of the team. 

Despite Nick’s soft-spoken demeanor, the team feels his presence because he leads by example. Nick won the 100 meter and 300 meter dive events at conference last year, while performing second only to his brother the two years before that. In addition to his many successes, Nick’s background in gymnastics and his experience in learning how to dive helped him become a better teacher for a team composed of inexperienced divers, some of whom converted from other sports just like him. 

“Nick is an individual who came to diving from gymnastics, which is common.” said Tim Hammond, the Assistant Swim Coach. “But he didn’t grow up diving. He learned a lot about diving his first year and he became more refined year after year. It’s interesting to see him mature and coach the younger divers.” 

Diver Charlie Kessner ‘12 came to Grinnell as a soccer player but converted into a diver. Under the guidance of Nick Smith, Kessner emerged as a skilled diver.  

“My friend from the soccer team and I were asked to be on the diving team and we came in not knowing anything but over the last year, Nick and Mark Sullivan [‘10] have helped me immensely,” said Kessner. Nick’s positive attitude has really encouraged me to become a better diver.”

Max Fulgoni ‘12 has watched Nick demonstrate his ability to bring the team together and provide support for his teammates. Nick’s successes have been an instrumental part of the team’s victories. 

“He qualified for nationals,” Fulgoni said.“He gets a lot of points and makes the [swimmers’] job a lot easier. He’s been really good for divers for getting them together and has been really loud during swim races ”  

Nick’s achievements definitely left a mark on the history of Grinnell swimming. 

“That’s his name on the record board,” said Bill Mogavero ‘12. “Hopefully he’ll break that record this year. Maybe he can go to Nationals this year.” 

Nick’s outstanding skills will be invaluable for the quest for another pair of Midwestern Conference titles. Both the men’s and women’s teams have enjoyed long reigns defending their titles for the 8th and 11th times respectively. 

“I expect the team to swim really well.” Paul Gagne ‘10 said, “It’s expected that we should  win again, looking at the stats sheet. We’d like to do really well in the relays and have a good time.” 

Although the women’s team has won 3 more conference titles than the men’s team in the last 11 years, they face a more competitive challenge to regain the title this year.  

“Lake Forest this year has female swimmers that look very strong,” said co-captain Emily Summers ‘10 . We’re really confident about our ability to race them and push them really hard. And we really want competition to push us as well.”

“This is only my third year at Grinnell but this are the most dedicated team that I’ve seen so far,” said Hammond. They’ve chosen to work more diligently and harder as a team and that’s definitely shown in their ability. That’s what going to help them come out on top.” 

Members of the team consistently pointed to the size and the depth of the team as the driving forces behind their long history of success. 

“The team expects to win. I expect to win. There will be schools that will pick up a fair amount of first places, but we’re going to pick a lot of places between 1st and 18th. People will just see Grinnell all throughout the results,” said Smith. 

Nick Smith is a unique sight to behold, both on and off the boards. The Mad Dogs and Ducks will be losing him and the rest of the class of 2010 come Monday, but they hope to end their illustrious careers with a MWC victory. And hopefully Nick’s dreadlocks will safely make it through the weekend.

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