The University of Richmond women's swimming and diving team focused on mental preparation in the weeks before the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
Senior captain Nicole LePere said that in the two weeks before the tournament, which began Feb. 23 and will last until Feb. 26, the team stressed focus and tried to envision everything that was ahead.
"Our yardage in the pool comes down, and we do small intense sets to access our speeds and prevent fatigue going into the meet," LePere said.
"We've been training for so long, and our bodies can handle it. It's just whether or not we believe we can."
Junior Michelle Johnson said every swimmer on the team had a style of preparation, from stretching before a race to lying in a corner, feet in the air and plugged into music.
"There's kind of like an unspoken code that before people are racing, there's that time you have to do your own preparation," she said. "And it's just using those last couple [of] moments to do what you need to get ready.
"So much of what we do is focused on the team and being there for everybody. So you're standing up cheering for everybody else that swims until there's that crucial period right before your race."
If a swimmer is in the water, every teammate is poolside, Johnson said.
Coach Matt Barany said the team was motivated to be there because "if a swimmer is brave enough to attempt to go faster than she ever has before, we'll invest all of our resources into her efforts -- encouragement, cheering, celebration."
Johnson said that seeing her teammates along the side cheering for her really did make a difference.
She said last year's A- 10 conference loss to Fordham University, which snapped an eight-year winning streak over the school, altered the team's mentality. She said the team wasn't devastated because not winning for once was simply a different result. It was a thrill to see the way her team was able to respond, she said.
Every time the team rose in the lineup after the relay disqualification, the women triumphed, Johnson said. It was proof that they were still competing, she said.
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This year the team followed a group-created list of core values, she said.
Barany wants them to have values that they can carry with them for the four years of their swimming program, Johnson said, and they decided on respect, selflessness, pride, purpose and courage.
"Defining these values is easy," Barany said. "Living the values is the challenge."
While the Richmond swimmers and divers share the five core values, diving coach Erika Matheis said it's a different type of mentality for the divers than the swimmers. She said she told the two new divers, sophomore Carinne Mettus and freshman Margot Hillyer, to relax before they dove.
"It's more repetition than anything going into it because the more that you do the dive the more comfortable you feel," Matheis said.
The women had been doing mock meets at practice to prepare their dive mentalities, she said.
The divers practice more before the A-10s to get the jitters out, Matheis said. Swimmers can use their nerves to go faster, but if divers use too much speed they can hurt themselves, she said.
Hillyer said that while the swimmers rested their bodies before the A-10s, the divers worked harder.
"The more you rest, the more time you put in between your dives. You start to get nervous and your body starts to forget what to do -- when to kick out, when to jump, when to spin," she said. "So you just really want to keep your body acclimated to what it's trying to do."
Contact staff writer Katie Toussaint at email@example.com
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