Forty swimmers, four coaches and one mission -- swim faster.
Saint Peter’s swimming and diving team, the largest athletic team at the university, is getting ready to show off what they can do in the pool. With new additions to the team and returning swimmers, the Peacocks are improving their strategies in hopes to reach the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) championship round.
Mark Kretzer, SPU’s fourth season head coach, has finally built up the swim program and is ready to recruit specific event swimmers in hopes of strengthening the team.
This season, Kretzer brought in standout swimmers Luke Cillie from South Africa and German transfers from Illinois, Alina Geck and her twin sister, Marie.
“If you don’t vomit after your race then you didn’t swim hard enough,” said Cillie.
Placing first in all his events, 200 & 400 yard free relay, 100 & 200 yard back, 200 yard IM, and 200 & 400 yard medley, Cillie is ready for this upcoming season.
“I used to swim 10 times a week, two-hour sessions so it was quite a lot of training… I got to swim for like a good eight months, so I’m fit and ready to compete,” said Cillie.
Cillie, a freshman majoring in business management and accounting, chose to come to SPU because of its proximity to New York City.
But Cillie isn’t the only player who’s expected to make an impact this season.
Thomas Granet, a French international transfer student from Lindenwood Belleville University, whose main events are the 200 & 400 IM, is one of the many practicing their backstroke with Arthur Bertrand, who’s one of the four coaches.
“I usually don’t overthink about my races. I like to come behind the block and have an empty mind. No strategies or anything I usually swim according to how I feel,” said Granet.
At the NJIT Varsity Invitational meet, Granet placed fifth in the men's 100 yard back, (55.25) and third in the 200 yard back (1:57.12) Leading up to the home meet against Manhattan College and Kean University, Granet says he wants to improve on his main events, but has no personal time goals.
“We’re seeing what’s working and what’s not,” said Bertrand. “First month was about getting back in the pool. Right now, practices are definitely harder they know they are tired and these aren’t going to be the easiest meets but they gotta go through them.”
Bertrand, an SPU alum, is focusing on helping improve the backstrokers including Geck and her twin sister.
Geck, a junior communication major, also enjoys the closeness to New York City and the higher level of professionalism at SPU.
“I probably would have stopped swimming if I wouldn’t have come to the U.S.,” said Geck.
Coming off of a shoulder injury last season, Geck was out and had no motivation, but now is working hard and training to cut her times. In her previous meet, Geck came in fifth in the 400 yard IM (4:49.77) and eighth in 100 yard fly. (1.03.11)
“The team is better and there are more girls to race with,” she added. “I live with my teammates, my twin sister we go to practice, so we’re really close.”
Unlike American universities, German universities don’t offer swim programs at the professional level. There are only club programs that you can join, but not in the form of a team.
“Marie and Alina are great at every event, but especially at all the longer events which really helps us,” said Kretzer.
Kretzer also mentioned Efrat Marom, a freshman from Israel, as one of the key swimmers for the women’s team this season.
“Efrat is extremely talented, she is someone that you can put into an event and a relay and know that she’s going to win.” said Kretzer.
At NJIT Invitational, Marom placed third in the women's 200 yard free, (2:00.01) sixth in the 50 yard free, (25.58) second in the 100 yard free. (54.68)
Rachel Valentine, a junior and one of four captains on the team, led the women last season to fourth place in the 100-yard breaststroke and sixth place in the 200-yard breaststroke of the B-Final. Redshirting this season, she talked about the changes she's seen on the women's team.
“I think we are very strong this year. We have always been close as a team but this year I feel like the support of one another has been really nice to see.” said Valentine.
Along Valentine, juniors Oleksiy Polishchuk, Matt Xenitelis and sophomore David Dolgitzer are also redshirting.
Both teams defeated Manhattan at the NJIT Highlander Invitational. The men’s and women’s team had several top-five finishes such as in the 100-1000 yard free, the 100 & 200 yard back, 200 yard fly and 400 yard IM.
Looking forward to the upcoming season and first home dual meet against Kean University and Manhattan College, one Peacock said he’s ready to set records.
“You must know what you want, and swimming is a mental game,” said Cillie. “I want to put my name on that board.”