The swim and dive teams have not swept the male and female NESCAC Performers of the Week Awards since the conference formed 59 years ago. Last week, Jimmy Gaston ’15 and Angela Slevin ’15 broke that trend and are looking to be the first Wesleyan swimmers to qualify for Nationals since 2006. The Argus sat down to talk with with Slevin, who is one of a number of Wes swimmers hoping to bust that streak as well.
The Argus: You’ve been swimming some events this year you haven’t done in previous years, and doing very well in them. Why did you switch, and what has led to the success in the switch?
Angela Slevin: So I guess the past two years I focused a lot on backstroke, which is good, but it was the same program every week, so I think mixing it up keeps it fresh. And doing new events is always fun, so we experimented at the beginning of the year with some longer freestyles and some IM [individual medley]. It’s a lot of fun; you put less pressure on yourself when it’s a new event. I had a lot of communication with Coach [Peter] Solomon and decided that’s the direction we’re going to go. We’ve tweaked the training from previous years. I’m doing a lot more yardage for those longer events.
The training switch-ups have helped, doing different things in practice. I did a lot more strength training out of season, which definitely helped me, a lot of communication with Peter.
A: You guys have put up some really impressive times since coming back from the training trip, beating Tufts, Trinity, and Colby. To what do you attribute the across-the-board improvement over the past few meets?
AS: January’s a really important time of the season for us. We can just focus on training and not have to worry about classes, and the distraction of having people here. We were able to get a lot of high-volume training in. We were able to go down to Florida and train as a team for a while. Now that we’re dialing it back and resting, our bodies are recovering; we’ve been able to see a lot of impressive stuff the past few weeks. We’ve had lots of swimmers have lifetime bests going into the final weeks of the season.
A: In what ways does the training trip to Florida help you guys as a team?
AS: Aside from getting a lot of work in, it’s nice to be removed from campus, in our own little bubble, focusing on swimming and nothing else. Just bonding with the team, building those relationships, especially with the freshmen, has been really nice. Training trips are usually a really good time. I roomed with two freshmen and just [got] to know them more. Obviously the weather isn’t too shabby, we’re able to avoid the freezing temperatures and get to swim outside. We were able to mix it up a little bit, do a workout on the beach, do things outside, and keep things fresh.
A: Were you surprised when you were given the NESCAC Performer of the Week award? How does it feel to be recognized league-wide for your accomplishments so far?
AS: I was very surprised. Coach Solomon sends around the updated top times and Performer of the Week when it comes out, and I was surprised to see my face! It’s such an honor. The conference is getting faster and faster. Some of these girls will go on to win Nationals, so to be recognized by the NESCAC is a great accomplishment and I’m very excited about it.
There are a lot of people around me, though, that help me in my success. Last meet, Alexa [Burzinski ’15] swam a lifetime best in her 200 fly. Freshman year, in practice, we’d always race; I’d do the 200 back and she did the 200 fly, so I knew her times pretty well and I knew what a good time that was. So last meet, seeing her times really pumped me up when I got to see that success, and it’s so nice being able to build on each other’s successes like that.
A: Where do you think the team can improve most as you go forth into the postseason?
AS: At this point, most of our work is done, so at this point it’s staying healthy, getting rest, getting excited for NESCACs. We’re all excited to see what we can do improving upon last year. The last two years we were eighth overall, and we’re all looking to improve on that. Part of that is just trying to get out hands on the wall ahead of some of the teams we’re close to, like Bowdoin, Colby, and Trinity. Just trusting the work we’ve put in, trusting that we have a great coaching staff, a lot of talent on the team and just having fun with it.
A: What do you think you can improve most about your own swimming?
AS: So in terms of backstroke, I’ve been working a lot on my underwaters, getting out further, that’s something I’ve been working on for a few years, and there’s always room for improvement. With my IM, I’ve been working a lot on my opening, my butterfly, focusing on the little things. When you get into a race and you’re so excited, technique can sometimes go out the window, so working on that in practice is good for when you get into meet-time, you can just make it all about the race.
A: Personally, how have you felt about your performance recently, and how has this season lived up to your expectations so far?
AS: I’ve been very pleased with how the meets have gone recently, just being able to do new events, which is always exciting. I think we’ve gotten to an exciting place where everyone’s doing well, everyone’s excited, which is definitely a good place to be being about two weeks away. Each season is about improving on the past, and I’m very happy with how things are going.
A: What’s been your favorite part of the season so far? Where do you have the most fun?
AS: Apart from all the individual races we all do, some of the most fun we have in swimming is the relay teams. I’m really excited to see what we can do in our relays and medley relays. We had our best in-season time ever, we had some really incredible splits within the race. Serena [Zalkowitz ’17] broke the 25-second barrier, and we’re all excited to see what we can do.
A: At the beginning of the season, Coach Solomon mentioned that he has some Nationals aspirations for some of you, after Wes has gone so long without someone making it that far. With NESCACs coming up, when people have the best chance of qualifying, have you guys been thinking about that at all?
AS: It’s definitely been on a lot of people’s minds since the beginning of this season, the end of last season. At the beginning of the year, Peter sits down with each of us individually to talk about our goals for the season, and that’s definitely something that came up for a lot of people as an end goal. We had four girls who are still on the team that achieved B-cuts last year, and I definitely think there are good shots to do that again this year, with girls who didn’t make it last year, as well. Both [the 200- and 400-yard] medley relays have a good shot at the B-standard as well.