Encouraging signs of promise for Warwick
Ben Smith is excited about the promise within the Warwick Academy swim team after a highly respectable finish at the Eastern Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships.
As one of the considerably smallest teams competing among some 40 schools at the event, one of the largest and most prestigious US schools meets, Warwick finished in seventeenth position overall, bettering their 20th-place finish a year earlier.
Smith, the school's and national head coach, was left delighted at the signs of collective improvement after watching his team once again punch above their weight and exceed expectations.
“Seeing that improvement is definitely what we hope to achieve and seeing the level of performance that was produced is very encouraging,” he said.
“Another massive plus for me was that in the past we've had one or two standout performers, but this year was a real team effort with brilliant performances across the board and, to me personally, that's a better situation to have.
“The level was really strong again this year. There was one swimmer who set the fastest time for a prep school in history; that just shows you the depth of quality involved. We had a highly respectable finish considering the size of our set-up compared to some of the biggest schools involved.
“The key thing for us will always be to give our swimmers exposure of the bigger events.”
As well as progressing through to a team high of 16 finals, securing 19 personal best times between them, one standout highlight for Smith was the girls' team making the A finals in the 400 metres free relay.
“The size of the competition is definitely different to what we're used to and that's why seeing our girls' relay team walk out in the A final amongst the other teams was a big highlight for me,” he added. “To have the opportunity to experience that sort of atmosphere and not be overawed by it is brilliant for them.
“We train hard every week to prepare the best we can for these sort of events, but you never know how the swimmers are going to react. However, they all stepped up and performed really well.”
Another major positive for Smith was the fact that his team has growth for improvement in the future with a number of them still at the younger end of the competiting age scale.
“We have some swimmers that are at the younger end of the age bracket and aren't even the equivilant of freshman age in the US competing against seniors, so that's a big positive for the future,” said Smith, whose team contained six swimmers making their first appearance at the competition.
“Their journey is only just starting out for some of these guys and having these types of experiences at this early stage is brilliant for them all.”
With Warwick's swim programme still in its relative infancy compared to other schools in the US, Smith is confident that staying on island's now being seen as a viable option for students keen to puruse the sport.
“The programme has exceeded my expectations at this point,” he added. “You'll always have students heading overseas to school, but now they are starting to see that they can stay in Bermuda and do the same from here and compete in the same competitions.”
Smith also believes that as a result of their performances, rivals are now taking notice of the team as they continue to build on burgeoning relationships, adding: “Other schools are also seeing us as contenders rather than just a novelty, coming over from Bermuda.
“Other coaches were always happy for us to be at these competitions, but now they are actuively wanting us to be there to compete against them because they've realised how much our level has risen.”