Goggles, check. Swim cap, check. Towel, check. After running through this list in their heads more than once, the swimmers take their first steps across the cool, tiled flooring and to the wooden door at the head of the locker room. The metal handle is cool to the touch as the first swimmer takes a final breath, opens the door and is met by the warm air of the atrium.
In front of the swimmers is a crystal blue pool with five bright red and white lines down the center and matching flags hanging from above. To the right is a crowd full of excited fans awaiting the beginning of the meet and a group of male swimmers that the women have come to love as a family of their own. Behind them, the nerves and fears of the locker room seem to fade to gray as friends and coaches lend words of encouragement in preparation for the races ahead.
In their first meet of the season, the cool, steel-colored bleachers the fans usually tended to were no longer so dull as they became filled with a sea of red and blue on Oct. 16. As the racers took to the starting blocks ahead of them for the first event, goggles were pulled on, nerves were shaken off and six racers poised themselves for the whistle.
With its loud blare, they were off – but not to the best start. Seton Hall University, ranked highly in the New Jersey Athletic Conference as Division I, saw both of their medley relay teams out-touch Montclair Sate by a total of nine seconds. Though not seemingly much, in the pool, hundredths of a second can often determine the outcome of a race – not whole ones.
While the team returned to the locker room, disappointed with their overall performance, there would be a lot more to celebrate following their next meet, which saw the team come out on top with 152 – 57 against Saint Peter’s University.
Despite another tough meet against The College of New Jersey in their first NJAC meet of the season, Montclair State’s female swimmers showed a rather strong performance in their next two dual meets, when they defeated both Adelphi University and Drew University.
However, this much needed confidence was washed away in the clear waters of the pool ahead of them when they placed last at the Franklin and Marshall College Invite in Lancaster, Pennsylvania over the weekend of Nov. 20.
In following, Montclair State saw success in three separate dual meets against Misericordia University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Mount St. Mary College. However, when the team faced their second conference game against Rowan University on Jan. 16, they could not outshine the Profs and suffered a 113 – 145 loss.
Though the Red Hawks have been struggling to gain proper footing around the pool, the season is in its last-leg as the swimmers head into the colder, snow-filled months of the year. For the racers, there will be many more 7 a.m. practices, 5,000 yard workouts and seemingly endless training weeks. However, they will not be alone in their push towards victory at the end of the season, which will come in late February.
At the end of the pool with a clipboard and whistle in hand, head coach Brian McLaughlin watches over the swimmers at each and every practice, always pushing them to do their best. In his 27th year as the coach of Montclair State men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, McLaughlin has been known to train fast, determined swimmers who perform to the best of their ability, even in the team’s darkest times.
One of the most successful coaches in the history of the program, McLaughlin has built a swimming and diving team that has constantly ranked as one of the top teams at the regional level. At the same time, his swimmers have continued to show their ability to perform at a high level not only in the pool, but in the classroom as well.
Over the course of the semesters in which they compete, McLaughlin’s swimmers have recorded one of the highest team GPAs out of Montclair State’s 17 athletic teams. In the past, the women’s team has held the highest GPA for three years, while the men have also claimed five honors in the past decade.
It is no secret that the Red Hawks will begin to make each meet of the season count as the cooler weather begins to leave frost both on the grass and in the hair of the swimmers. They continue to head across campus and into Panzer to work towards completing yet another successful season.
The team will compete against William Patterson University and Ramapo College in their third and fourth conference games of the season this weekend, Jan. 30-31. With their overall performance this season, the Red Hawks may just see themselves poised high above the pool on the starting blocks and awaiting the blow of the whistle in next month’s Metropolitan Championships – only time will tell.