Feb. 24, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – After a season of steady improvement, Marshall is ready to make a splash this week at the Conference USA Swimming & Diving Championships.
The Herd will be one of nine teams in the women’s competition Wednesday through Saturday at the Georgia Tech Aquatics Center, the Atlanta facility built for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
“We’re all really excited to finally swim as fast as we know that we can,” said Marshall junior Katie Kramer, who is entered in two freestyle sprints and the 100 butterfly. “It’s what every swimmer lives for, this one week throughout the year. Throughout the season, our dual meets are exciting and we like to race then, but we aren’t rested like we are now.
“Bill (Tramel, the Herd’s second-year coach) has been here for the past two years now has been able to implement his full training program. This is a year-round sport and finally we’re training all year-round and we’re enthused to see what the results of that will be.”
What had been a six-team competition has increased with the loss of SMU and Houston to the AAC, but the addition of five schools in realignment. Marshall will compete with East Carolina, FIU, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, Tulane and Western Kentucky. WKU joins C-USA as an all-sports member in 2014-15, but was granted early membership in swimming.
The Herd is shy of depth, but will take 13 swimmers and three divers to the championships. In its previous eight C-USA Championships, Marshall hasn’t placed higher than fifth in six- or seven-team competitions.
It also will be the final competition for six Marshall seniors, unless they qualify for the NCAA Championships. Included among those six is Sarah Kay of Cape Town, South Africa.
Kay, who swims butterfly and the individual medley, will compete in front of her parents, Andrew and Elizabeth Kay, who made their first trip to the United States this month to visit their daughter and are heading to Atlanta after visiting other sites in this country.
Kramer, of Naples, Fla., said the Herd enters the meet with one team-oriented ingredient – “confident arrogance.”
“We’ve worked hard and you’re rested so you feel prepared, but this year is really a different level than last year,” said Kramer, who is one of MU’s Yeager Scholars, the highest academic scholarship offered at MU. “We’ve done the work, and I think over our December training trip (to Clearwater, Fla.), we worked harder than a lot of us ever have in our lives -- and that’s saying something, after swimming your whole life.
“It’s kind of a new mindset here. It’s kind of been developing since Bill got here, and we still have a ways to go, obviously. You never want to be satisfied, but he talks about ‘confident arrogance.’ That’s kind of a Bill Tramel concept where you’re not too arrogant, but it’s a swagger where you step up on the blocks and you’re going to go faster than you ever have in your life. And that’s really exciting.”
Tramel said the Herd’s progress in the pool should pay dividends in Atlanta.
“We’re certainly moving along now and we’re excited for the conference (meet),” Tramel said. “It’s a high-caliber meet with the new teams in there. We’ve put a lot of work in, more than last year, and have a lot of people who are believing now, and we’re just trying to pump their confidence before the meet starts Wednesday.
“We’re still a little shorthanded, saddled with injuries and attrition. Thirteen and three, that’s what we’re down to right now, but we’ll change that with our recruiting, with the army of people coming in (10 signees to date for 2014-15). So, we’ll certainly be much bigger in numbers as we approach conference next year … but we’re talking about this year.”
Tramel said the Herd has had “some really, really good practices” in the last three weeks during taper for the championships. One of this season’s newcomers, freshman backstroker and freestyler Bree Mury, said the enthusiasm for the task ahead – now and in future years – is growing.
“Every step we take, we kind of feel like we’re growing so much,” said Mury, of Round Rock, Texas. “When I came in, we were OK, but I feel like with Bill, we’ve gotten so much better this season and we’re recruiting so much faster (swimmers) than we have now, so it will be exciting as we go on in coming years.
“My hope was to come here and help everyone grow what’s we’re doing. The club team (Texas Gold) I’m with, the attitude was the harder you work the faster you get. So, my whole life in swimming, I’ve been like, work hard, work hard.
“So I think all of us together, growing and working harder, that helps the program grow. I’d like to think I can contribute to that.”
Mury said she really didn’t know what to expect at Marshall. She was considering North Texas and Kansas for college swimming, and only ended up with the Herd because “honestly, I only looked here because my brother’s (Jacob) favorite movie is ‘We Are … Marshall.’ He said, ‘Just fill out the questionnaire, it will be fun.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, whatever,’ and it worked out perfect and I came here.
“I’m so excited for this. It’s just like an honor to compete in a conference championship. I love swimming here, love representing the school. And swimming in the Olympic complex, I’m so excited. The best pool I’ve swam in is the University of Texas. People have told me the Olympic complex in cooler than that.”
Mury will swim the 200 back, 200 free, and the 100 back or 500 free (a decision still to be made). Kramer’s races are the 50 and 100 free and the 100 fly.
“I’m really excited to swim the 100 fly,” she said. “We’ve been working a lot on that, and really changed my technique. But I’m prepared to go my lifetime best in all three.”
For a developing, still depth-shy program like the Herd, are team standing or times more important at this juncture?
“It’s kind of a unique sport, where you want to swim for your team and want to score high in conference and maybe individually be a conference champion,” Kramer said. “At the same time, even if we miss out on a team championship, we can all have our own individual victories that help the team. Those are huge as well.”
Tramel said the 2013-14 Herd is ready to put the wraps on a season of progress for the program.
“I think, at this point, the name of the game is the scoreboard, and we’re certainly looking to put up points there,’ the Herd coach said. “But I think where our program is right now, we’re really just trying to improve. It’s an individual sport, yet it’s a team sport.
“When you look at the individual, each one has a personal record or as I like to say, lifetime best. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to swim as fast as we’ve ever swam in our life. We want to dive as best as we can.
“We have a record board we keep. We want to rewrite that whole record board, or as much of it as we can. It may not get done in one year, but we had five records go down last year and we’re looking for a bunch more this year.
“I think we’re in a very good position to be competitive for success. Now, we still have to go out there and do it, but I think at this point, we’re really prepared.’