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BOGACZYK: Herd Swimming Faster, Stronger as Season Opens

Kacey Preun
Oct. 5, 2014

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- For a while now, you might say Marshall’s swimming and diving team has been on the ropes. Now, as the 2014-15 season begins, the Herd is where it should be … which is going faster between the ropes.

Marshall Coach Bill Tramel’s third season in charge of the Herd opens Friday and Saturday at Fitch Natatorium with the annual West Virginia State Games. Marshall, West Virginia, Alderson-Broaddus, Davis & Elkins, Wheeling Jesuit, Fairmont State, WVU Tech and West Virginia Wesleyan are entered.

Competition begins Friday at 4 p.m., with Saturday sessions at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

And as the Herd points toward the dual-meet competition and beyond this season, there is a feeling it is not just swimming in one of those wave pools, treading water but getting nowhere.

Just ask seniors Kacey Preun and Katie Kramer. They were in the program before Tramel’s arrival in the summer of 2012 arrival from previous stops at major programs as an assistant. It’s been more than an attitude adjustment, they said.

Gosh, it’s like night and day from the beginning, from when I came here to what it is now," said Preun, a distance specialist from St. Andrews, Manitoba. "It’s 100 times better, I can’t even believe since getting here, of where we are today.

"I’ve been told over and over again, ‘Everything happens for a reason; everything happens for a reason,’ and everything that’s gone on with our class, having Bill and what he’s done, I wouldn’t want to change anything.

"He’s developed and made our team so much better, work ethic, discipline, technique, skills and even from when he first got here to what it is today, it’s amazing. I’m so excited to see what we can do this year, with him bringing in more recruits, having a full team to go out and compete."


 

 

After saying goodbye to those who didn’t want to do things the way Tramel wanted, the Herd was down to 14 swimmers and divers prior to last season. Thanks to two straight solid recruiting classes, the Herd roster numbers 27, but includes only five seniors.

"We’ve almost doubled in a year," said Kramer, who swims freestyle sprints and the butterfly and who swam across the Strait of Gibraltar back in May. "It’s a whole new world. I’d say there were definitely big changes implemented when Bill got here, and they were needed changes. There was an adjustment period; we all kind of saw his vision for the program -- and not that we’re there by any means – but we have started to see some of the effects of it.

"There was sort of that in-between period where we were working hard, but the difference now is we’re still working hard in practice, but we’re also performing in practice, too. We do some of the same sets every year at the same time, and when you compare past years to now, those times – and it’s very objective – everyone is going faster.

"So, it’s very encouraging. We haven’t had any out-of-the-pool issues this year, it’s just a positive atmosphere now, and I think the (five) seniors can genuinely say we’re having by far the most fun we’ve had."

Under Tramel and assistant swim coach Ian Walsh, Marshall posted four school records and 33 all-time Herd top 10 performances in 2013-14. And this offseason, Tramel’s program added a new diving coach in Andrew Helmich, who was s four-year diver at South Carolina.

"My favorite stat from last year," Kramer said, "is at conference (USA Championships), every single girl did a lifetime best time and that includes 22- and 23-year-old seniors who hadn’t gone that fast since high school. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

"Even though we had a small team, points-wise, didn’t win a conference championship, you could still look at the individual and relay times and see you’d gone faster than you ever had in your life, and that’s rewarding. And now, we’re already going faster in practice than we did last year at this point, and it just opens the door for what we can accomplish."

Preun, a nursing major, said she looks "forward to practice every day and having the whole team there in the pool, divers going off the board practicing, and the swimmers, the lanes are full, that whole morale is about working hard, let’s get this done so we can build and do better this year.

"Now that we have all of these added girls on the team, what can we do as a team on top of the work we’ve put in. Bill’s always moving forward and introducing new things to the team, like he’s wanted to since he got here. But it’s just taken time because there was an adjustment period. We have new paddles, new sets, new assistant coaches, stuff he could never do at the beginning because we weren’t ready. And now that we are ready, what we’re doing is going to help us perform."

Preun added that Tramel’s vision to make Marshall a C-USA title contender to enhance recruiting even more is part of what drives the Herd. But did Preun and Kramer think after the new coach arrived and put his cards on the table and pressed for the commitment he wanted that the Herd could really do what he said was needed?

"Bill and I have a lot of the same mindset," said Preun, who has 23 individual event wins at Marshall. "I’ve always been kind of driven for swimming, swim-crazy. So when I first met him and saw what he was doing, I’ve been excited the whole time. I’ve been ready for the challenges he had for us.

"I know at one point I did wonder, ‘Is this ever going to happen? Are we going to become what we can?’ And I knew it would take a lot at the beginning, especially just with all of the personalities we had on the team then and all of the changes. But I knew deep down if anybody can do it, Bill can do it. He’s headstrong, and he loves swimming. It’s his life. When he got here, that was his goal the whole time and I think it’s a huge step toward that this year."

Kramer and Preun are anxious to see what happens in the water for the Herd down the road, but they’re charged about their final seasons in the Marshall program.

"I think when Bill came in, some of the seniors back then were kind of disenchanted," said Kramer, an MU Yeager Scholar who gained her undergraduate degree last May and will compete as a graduate student this season. "So I’m not sure everyone was 100 percent on board, but I think I came from the same background as KP (Preun).

"If we weren’t going to try to compete for championships, why waste our time and do this? … There have been highs and lows, but it’s kind of bittersweet now, but it’s our last year. So, we’ve got to make the most of it."

In addition to the State Games, the Herd has three home meets at Fitch Natatorium this season – Nov. 1 versus Vanderbilt and Xavier; Nov. 14 against Ohio and Jan. 31 against Western Kentucky. The C-USA Championships are scheduled this year at Knoxville, Tenn., from Feb. 18-21.

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