A Georgia swimmer cheers.The Georgia Swimming and Diving team hosted Texas A&M University in their first dual meet of the new year on Jan. 11, 2019 in the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, Georgia. Both the Georgia Women and Men defeated their opponents. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

In swimming, teams move forward in rankings based on points made by individual teammates. However, swimmers move onto championships based on their personal swim times, rather than the entire team going to championships. 

This season, Georgia’s swim team is ranked third in the SEC based on the collective points made by swimmers on the team. These points are earned when one swimmer places in a race, granting points for the whole team.

Because swimmers advance to championships individually, it’s easier for them to be more focused on their personal swim times rather than the team’s collective ranking. Nonetheless, many of Georgia’s swimmers agree that they would not be as skilled in the sport without the motivation and reassurance of their teammates.

“Collegiately, it’s more about the team than yourself,” freshman Harry Homans said. “It gets to a point where you kind of have to be selfish and think about what’s best for you and how you’re doing as a swimmer. For the majority, it’s about the team.”

Junior Olivia Anderson, from Ontario, Canada, explained how the team aspect of swimming is different in the U.S. compared to Canada. This difference is what led to her choosing to swim collegiately in the U.S.

“I’m from Canada, so I had the choice to stay there or come here,” Anderson said. “The difference between swimming at home and swimming here is individual or team. I came here for that team experience, so for me, that’s important.”

During races, swimmers are allotted their own lane and left to their own thoughts. It comes down to their individual skill, practice and technique. The points they earn for the team, in addition to their rank in the race, come down to themselves.

“A lot of the times when you’re swimming, you want to do well, but you also want the team to do well,” Anderson said. “At the end of the day, you getting a higher finish is going to help the team.”

Despite the intensity put on individual swimmers to earn their overall team points, the way meets are structured makes winning a team effort. Swimmers motivate their teammates from the start of the meet to its end with their cheers and shouts of support filling the natatorium and never weakening.

They push one another to do their best, stay focused on their goals and offer reassurance in that they all experience similar difficulties.

“In training, I know there will be [teammates] pushing me,” Homans said. “That gives me satisfaction because I know if they’re pushing me, I’m also pushing them. That’s how you work as a team, and I know that’ll help me reach my goals.”

Anderson believes Georgia’s co-ed team pushes her to work harder and swim faster.

“What I like about this program is it’s combined guys and girls, which isn’t the case all the time,” Anderson said. “When you’re a girl trying to chase after a guy [during a race] … it’s gonna make you a lot faster.”

Swimming alongside some of the fastest in the nation motivates each swimmer to work just as hard as the competitor in the lane over.

Furthermore, the team acts as a canopy of comfort and a sense of family for certain swimmers. It not only helps them in the pool but in their personal lives as well.

“I know there’s a group of [teammates] that’s like a second family,” Homans said. “I’m from Rhode Island which is pretty far away, so I don’t get to see my family a lot. I know I have a bunch of really good friends here that I can talk to about anything. It helps my swimming, too.”

At the end of the day, the confidence and support each swimmer can pass onto the next is their ultimate goal as a teammate. This is what makes the biggest difference between individual and team swimming for many of the Bulldogs.

“It’s a give-and-take thing, giving support to other people,” Homans said. “It’s rewarding to receive that back. If you were to swim by yourself, you wouldn’t get those results or satisfaction.”

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