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Making Waves

Good Sport

Jason Togyer

Good Sport

The loneliness of the middle-distance swimmer

 [DJ Case photo]

At 5:15 in the morning, the clock-radio alarm goes off. Carolyne Savini can’t afford to hit the snooze button or she’ll miss the 5:45 shuttle that will take her up Cardiac Hill to the Trees Hall swimming pool. Sure, the third-year communications major could walk, but the swim team workout that awaits her is enough of a physical challenge.

Savini and her teammates from the men’s and women’s swim teams smack the water around 6 am. They put in a couple of hours of swimming and weightlifting, before heading to class.

There are also additional afternoon practices three days a week. That’s a lot of swimming for the 70 or so men and women, but the practice has paid off, especially for the men’s team. Last year they took home the Big East title for the sixth straight time. The women finished respectably, coming in sixth, and they expect to do better this year.

At practice, but still barely awake, Savini tucks her hair inside a latex swim cap to prevent drag. She jumps into the pool, beginning a morning of laps, laps, and more laps. For the accomplished middle-distance swimmer, building endurance is crucial for developing the most efficient, fastest form. Stroke after deliberate stroke, she concentrates on every movement as she glides across the Olympic-size pool. Hands, feet, and legs fall into a rhythm. Swift, powerful kicks propel her through the water. She’s awake now.

With each lap, Savini focuses on the end of the lane in front of her. It’s all about breaths, strokes, tucks, rolls, and kicks away from the wall. To ease the pain and monotony, she pretends she is on a stage, so to speak, and places her mind and body at an upcoming meet. “It’s like I am putting on a show,” she says. “The practices are our rehearsals, and the meets are the big event.”

In her mind, Pitt fans decked out in blue and gold pack Trees Hall, yelling her name. Teammates at the end of the lane cheer her on. Competitors, vying for the win, challenge her on either side. She senses the excitement and vibration of fans pounding the bleachers, creating the adrenaline rush she needs to get her through the long, lonely practice.

Swimming is a sport that Savini and her teammates practice year-round, with the team and on their own. There are few vacations, holidays, or days off—at least not if they wish to spend this spring as champions.

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