by Micah Wilkins, web editor
“Take your mark. Up!” Andrew Pulsifer’s yell echoes through the pool room as the row of swimmers dive in and break the water’s surface.
“Typically they don’t get this much barking,” Pulsifer said. “But they’re getting ready for conference.”
The Warren Wilson swim team finished this season at the Appalachian Swimming Conference at Union College in Barbourville, KY Feb. 17-19.
At the team’s last meet, against Mars Hill College, sophomore Laetitia Mead broke two school records, the 100 yard breast stroke and 200 breast stroke records, which were 13- and 12-year-old records, respectively.
“It’s the first time we’ve had someone else [besides team captain Amelia Hubbard] break records,” Pulsifer said. Senior Hubbard has broken eight school records.
Mead did not swim on a team prior to coming to Wilson, but she has improved significantly since joining the team last season.
“[Laetitia] showed some real natural athletic ability,” Pulsifer said.
Pulsifer stood at the foot of the pool, counting the swimmers in front of him with his index finger.
“Six of the 15 at practice right now haven’t swum [on teams] prior to Warren Wilson,” he said. “That’s a pretty high ratio to have on a Varsity team. We like to think of it as a good opportunity to just jump in and do something like this.
Mead especially feels grateful that she was put on the team, despite her lack of experience.
“Just being able to hop on the swim team was a great opportunity,” Mead said. “A lot of us feel lucky, getting to swim for a college team.”
The swim team means more than just a way to exercise for those on the team.
“This is one of the things keeping me in school,” said one of the team’s captains, senior Johnathon Bland.
The team is a close group of students, according to Mead. There’s a strong sense of community amongst the swimmers, who are under the guidance of a consistent and personable coach.
“The school’s really lucky to have [Pulsifer],” Mead said. “It’s really impressive how much he knows each of us. He knows us individually as athletes. He knows how to push each of us. He always has something for each of us to work on.”
Pulsifer has been coaching college teams for 17 years, and this year marks his fourth season at Warren Wilson.
Toward the end of practice, Pulsifer set up a rug at the edge of the pool for swimmers to run off of and dive into the water. He watched each student carefully, giving them advice, critiques and praise as soon as they resurfaced, talking over the pop music coming from the boombox on the other side of the pool.
“In this last week [of practice], they want to feel like they’ll be able to swim faster than they ever have,” Pulsifer said. “That what it’s all about.
Each swimmer dedicated two hours every weekday to practicing with Pulsifer and the rest of the team this season, slowly watching their times improve.
“They’re a pretty steady group,” Pulsifer said. “They’ve devoted a lot of time to this.”