by Rachel Glasser '11
Note: This story also appears in the April issue of the Sho'men Club Newsletter. To become a member of the Sho'men Club, click here.
Rachel Glasser, a senior on the women's swimming team, chronicled her experience at the Division III NCAA Championships from March 23-26 in Knoxville, TN, as she concluded her historic career at Washington College with All-America Honorable Mention in two events to make her a seven-time All-American and that makes her the most decorated swimmer in school history.
She was also a three-time Centennial Conferece Most Outstanding Swimmer and is just the second women's swimmer to achieve that feat.
Monday, March 21, 2011
I'm up bright and early for a long travel day. After spending a few days at home, resting up, and packing my bags I am very ready to start our journey. I head to coach Kim Lessard's house to start our drive to BWI. The sun hadn't come up yet and although I was tired I could already feel the excitement; plus we got to watch a pretty neat early morning lightning show along the way.
This is my fourth trip to NCAA's with Kim, so we're seasoned travel partners. Our first flight takes only an hour. We have a connection in Charlotte, NC where we bump into a bunch of other teams that are also traveling to Knoxville. We walked a long way through the airport to make it to our connecting flight, thank goodness for the moving sidewalks. We got to our gate and see that we're taking a little puddle jumper plane to Knoxville. It took us a quick 45 minutes in our little plane to get to Knoxville. It was 70 degrees when we landed! The warm weather was a nice welcome.
Once in our rental car we sped off to the Marriot where we'd be staying for the week. Our hotel was also the official meet hotel so there were plenty of swimmers and divers there to keep us company. I got settled in my room, unloaded my stuff, and packed my swim bag so we could go check out the pool.
The Allan Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee is only a few years old and a few times larger than our Casey Aquatic Center, so I was anxious to get in and swim around. When we arrived we had to check in, get our credentials, a meet poster, and a nice new water bottle. After we got our stuff there was open swim and it was nice to get in the water and get back into my routine.
On our way home from the pool we stopped in the Market Square and had dinner at a cool little restaurant. Knoxville had a funky vibe to it that I was not expecting and everyone we met was so nice, not to mention the accents! It was either the long day of traveling or the fact that the bed was so comfortable, but I fell asleep immediately after we got back from dinner.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Since the meet doesn't start until Wednesday, I was allowed to sleep in a little. Every morning we had breakfast up on the eleventh floor of the hotel and there was such a great view of the Tennessee River and mountains off in the distance. After breakfast we went to the pool so I could get in a light practice.
For such a large facility the visiting locker room that we were allowed to use was tiny! Everyone was bumping into each other; there were so many athletes but only 20 people could fit in at one time. Luckily there was a change made and we were allowed to use the varsity locker room that had so much more space.
Once I finished my practice and had gotten changed I was instructed to take my "team enhancement photo". I watched as other teams took their pictures and I decided that I was not going to stand up on the podium for my picture alone, so I had to convince Kim and drag her into the picture with me. With our big team photo done we grabbed some lunch and headed back to the hotel to get some rest. A few hours later we went back to the pool to get in and swim around again.
Every year, the night before the meet starts there is a banquet. Everybody looks the same with wet hair and a swimsuit on, so the banquet is a fun chance to dress up. This year we were seated by conference with people from Gettysburg and Dickinson. Sometimes it is hard being the only swimmer from WAC at this meet so it was nice to see some familiar faces and get some small talk in. After the meal there was a motivational speaker who performed a funny dance at the end of his talk. After that it was time for bed since the meet would be starting the next day.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Wednesday was the first day of the meet and included my first event, the 500-yard freestyle. I was in the last heat of the preliminaries and swam next to the top seeded athlete. I knew from the beginning that I would have to swim my own race; I couldn't go out with the girl on my right. After the top seed pulled away the rest of the heat was pretty even. I finished the event 14th so I was glad to have another chance to swim. The time that I went was a good morning swim for me and although I didn't make the championship final like I did last year I was ready for another opportunity. This was the first year that it took a sub five minute 500 to make finals. It became clear throughout the week that the national meet has gotten faster each year, but especially this year.
After a long warm down, lunch, and a nap at the hotel, it was time to head back to the pool for finals. I love the atmosphere at finals, you can feel the excitement and the NCAA does a great job of making the meet feel like a show. There are always important people, or synchronized divers or swimmers that perform, and local celebrities to sing the national anthem. This meet was different since it was my last meet as a collegiate athlete; it was hard not to think of each swim as my last.
The 500 was the first event of the night so I listened to the national anthem from the ready room with the other girls in my heat. As they announced our heat they played a song while we took off our warm ups and got ready for the race. At the end of the race I swam a 5:01 and finished 15th. I was a little bummed with my time, but I've always been taught that you can't have a best time every race and that no matter what you have to be happy with your best effort. I knew I gave my best and got my nervous swim out of the way. It was hard to remind myself of that as I loosened down in the warm down pool but by the time I found my parents after the session I was okay and ready to concentrate on the next day.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Thursday was my sprint day, the 200 freestyle is a relatively new event for me. For most of my swimming life I have been considered a distance swimmer so the 200 was a nice change for me. I knew that I needed a fast swim to be able to make it back to finals. I needed to go out hard and try to hold on. The 200 free was my favorite event of the meet. I was first off the blocks and swam my fastest split at the 100. I felt so strong the whole race and tried to kick in as hard as I could at the end. Kim and I watched the last heat together as we counted places and checked times. I was so happy with my morning swim and my time was right on my best time, I wanted so badly to have the chance to race it again. I ended up 17th just one place out of the finals by four one-hundredths of a second. I was upset that I didn't make it back but proud of the way I swam the race. It was nice to have the afternoon off to rest and we went back to finals so I could loosen up in the pool again and to watch some awesome swims.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The 200 butterfly has been my best event through my four years. It was the event that I made the meet in during my freshman year and every year I have made finals. My parents have always been supportive of my swimming and have never put pressure on me to perform, but I was ready for one last chance to swim this race. I wasn't very nervous for this race, all of the work had been put in and it was just time to execute. I swam my first 200 fly when I was eight years old so I knew what I needed to do.
Friday was also a Cancer Awareness Day, everyone was encouraged to wear pink. My mother is a two-year breast cancer survivor, so I loved this and we all wore our pink proudly. The officials had pink shirts, as did many coaches, athletes, and spectators, but best of all were the pink and white lane lines in the pool!
After my prelim swim I was relieved that I made it back in the B final. I had some changes that I wanted to make to my race plan to improve at finals and I was glad to have that chance. We left the pool for a quick lunch and a nap back at the hotel.
Just like the first night of the meet, my race was the first one of the night. I had chills during the national anthem and felt a couple tears build up. It was a weird feeling knowing that this would be my last chance to represent Washington College and hear the anthem for the last time as a student athlete. I just tried to take it all in.
I kept my headphones on as we walked out to the blocks just listening to my favorite pump up song. I could see Kim and a few other people cheering for me from the side of the pool. Once we were on the blocks and the referee had blown his whistle for quiet on the deck, I thought to myself that I was ready. I swam my race much better than I had in the morning and took a few tenths off of my prelim swim to finish 12th. I felt strong all the way to the finish and for the first time in what felt like a while, I had touched a couple people out instead of the other way around.
I hopped out of the pool and found Kim; I got a big hug and tried to hold back some tears. My parents always kept things in perspective and told me that if I ever got out of the pool after a race crying then it was time to quit. Well, these were happy tears and I think this was an exception. It may not have been the meet that I was hoping for but I was so grateful for everything. I was glad to have made the meet all four years, glad that Kim helped me through it all, and thankful for all that Dr. Matthews and the athletic department has done for me. It was an amazing feeling to be done.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Saturday was an easy and relaxing day. All I had left to do was one more senior walk. After a day of shopping and exploring Knoxville, we went back to the pool for the last time. All of the seniors were lined up in alphabetical order by school, some in big groups and some representing their teams alone like me. Being a "W" school I was one of the last seniors lined up. After the announcer said the name of the senior athlete the entire natatorium gave two claps. It didn't matter if you were a big team with lots of fans in the stands or just a team of one, everyone received the same recognition. I walked forward after my name was called and gave Kim a big hug. All of the names were said and we were all lined up around the pool, everyone stood and cheered. This was such a cool experience that I want to remember forever.
Kim had to stay and work the rest of the meet, but my parents and I decided to head back to the hotel and celebrate my retirement. It was an exciting finish to the meet, lots of records fell, and Denison edged out Kenyon by ONE point. Kenyon had won the men's team title for the previous 31 years. The evening was full of controversy and excitement but I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
We were up and on our way to the airport by 5 am. Eight hours of traveling later, we arrived back in Chestertown where my teammates greeted me. I'm so happy that I chose Washington College and I have loved my four years here – what a ride it's been!
Glasser's All-American Events
2008: 200 Butterfly (HM)
2009: 200 Butterfly (1st)
2010: 200 Butterfly (1st)
2010: 500 Freestyle (1st)
2010: 100 Butterfly (HM)
2011: 200 Butterfly (HM)
2011: 500 Freestyle (HM)