Going the Distance

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Photo by Stephen De Ropp.
Photo by Stephen De Ropp.

The UC Santa Cruz swim team totaled 96 miles in the pool on Oct. 2 and 3 — equivalent to almost four times across the bay from Santa Cruz to Monterey. Swim team members, alumni and coaches participated in the 24-hour relay in memory of Ian W. Carney, an alumnus who passed away.

“He was a really great guy and one of the team leaders,” said alumnus and assistant coach Matt Nauman. “So we’ve been doing a relay swim in the pool for about five years and we used to do a trans-bay relay.”

That relay was a 26-mile swim from Santa Cruz to Monterey, with kayaks and boats following the swimmers across the bay. The 24-hour relay, whether in the pool or the bay, has been a 10-year tradition and kicks off the team’s season beginning in mid-October.

“We’ve been doing the pool version of the relay for a few years now because of some wildlife concerns. We ran into a pretty big fish one year and that was a little intimidating,” Nauman said.

The men and women’s NCAA swim team put on its 24-hour relay, the largest fundraiser of the year, to raise money for the program. The program needs to fund most of its expenses from transportation to gear, like many of the NCAA teams because funding from the school and student fees is minimal. The swim team raised $12,000 last weekend, a significant chunk of its budget for the season.

Last year the swim team carried a roster of 65, but this year it is looking to increase its size with 12 new members. With a team this large, fundraising is necessary to the success of the program.

“This is one of our biggest fundraisers, mostly friends and family, but we also have generous alumni,” Nauman said. “Kim, who has been the head coach for 17 years now, built up a good list of alumni and has a wonderful reputation with all the families.”

The excitement and enthusiasm was palpable, as each time a swimmer jumped into the pool they tacked on yards and miles for the team. The relay was continuous for 24 hours with swimmers in 12 teams of six each swimming relay style for an hour.

“It’s really great team bonding,” sophomore Jenna Riley said. “You may not have talked to everyone on the team, so you’re forced to compete together.”

The goal of this relay is to swim as many yards as possible. It creates friendly competition within the different teams and camaraderie within the team as a whole.

Next up for the Slugs is a meet against Stanford University men’s team on Oct. 9 followed by an alumni meet on Oct. 10. The meet against Stanford is the first test the men’s team will have this year. The past year it was held wheel-of-fortune style, with swimmers on the block while a roulette wheel decided what race they would compete in.

“I think we will do really well this season,” sophomore Wesley Whittlesey said. “Everyone is having a good time and working hard. We can do fun stuff and be weird, but when we go to a competition it’s all business.”