Kieran Ripkan – Staff Writer
The Gustavus Men’s Swim & Dive team is nearly three months removed from winning their fourth straight MIAC Swimming & Diving Championship and some of the team’s athletes have already started training for next season. However, with a demanding schedule spanning from the end of September through February, burnout from swimming out of season can be common. To effectively train for next season, a few members of the Men’s Swim & Dive team and an assortment of other students on campus have embraced a new way to stay active and in shape: recreational basketball.
Seniors Andrew Becker and Taylor Vander Jeugdt first had the idea of organizing the optional off-season games for the team in the Fall of 2021. Since the introduction of recreational basketball, the activity has blossomed into one of the more popular activities among the men’s swimmers before and after the season. It has become so popular, students outside of the swim team have joined in on the fun.
“[These are] some of my best friends at college… It is a good get-away from swimming and something a lot different that is a little bit more competitive, in my mind,” Becker said.
“I strive to be the best swimmer-basketball player ever. I want to leave a legacy on the team… [by] splashing not only in the pool but on the court as well,” Vander Jeugdt said.
Through this version of cross-training, swimmers are noticing a positive correlation between their workouts in the pool and on the court.
“Basketball has improved my swimming skills with increased hand-eye coordination, timing, cardio, and vertical jump. All are essential skills for swimming,” Vander Jeugdt said.
Assistant Swimming & Diving Coach Breanna Schlegel noticed the benefits paying off for her swimmers early this season and incorporated a few games of 5v5 and the game “Lightning” during lifting warmups.
“The happy athlete is a successful athlete. If playing basketball makes people happy, we might as well incorporate it,” Coach Schlegel said.
According to his teammates, Junior Logan Schindler has improved the most in both swimming and basketball during his time at Gustavus. Schindler, who has earned the nickname “Rodman” from his teammates for his tenacious defense, has developed into one of the team’s better players with a team-first attitude. This past season, he tallied seven lifetime best times in the pool.
“Basketball has taught me to look for the strengths of my teammates and to try to help them become the best players that they can be,” Schindler said.
On Tuesday, the group of regulars assembled on the Gus Young Court in Lund Center to go head-to-head like many other times this year.
The rules are simple. Players shoot free throws to select teams, intending to randomize who they will team up with in each outing. Regardless of how many players show, they play to a score of 21 counting three-point field goals as three points and shots inside the arc as two points. No free throws or fouls are called.
In game one, Team Vander Jeugdt hit the first three-pointer of the game and the team never looked back. Senior Adam Thornberg, a last-minute addition, caught fire with two early three-pointers to give his team a commanding 9-0 lead. Team Becker closed the gap with easy lay-ups from Sophomore Nyden Hill, Senior Brady Boie, and their captain. In the end, Team Becker’s efforts were not enough to overcome Team Vander Jeugdt. Thornberg led all scorers with eight points and Schindler tallied five points in the 21-15 win.
After shooting for new teams, Becker and Vander Jeugdt once again captained their respective teams. In game two, Team Becker jumped to a big lead with dominant post-play from their captain and Hill. Team Vander Jeugdt roared back with huge three-pointers from First-year Logan Braley to tie the game at 13.
The remainder of the game was a defensive battle with both teams struggling to hit their shots. Ultimately, Vander Jeugdt stepped up and willed his team to victory with multiple tough, contested lay-ups. He stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high eight points, three assists, and played lockdown defense. Hill led the game with ten rebounds and Braley distributed the game-winning assist.
“I am more of a pass-first guy, but when the team is down, I go into beast mode and start to score buckets,” Vander Jeugdt said.
It is unlikely that this group of recreational basketball players will be heading to a professional league, but they undoubtedly love any chance at competition they can get.
“Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to put up points for their team and make cool plays. Everybody is going all-out, all the time, doing whatever they can for their team to try to get the W,” Schindler said.
“As we’ve gotten better and more adept at playing basketball, it’s gotten a little bit more serious with a little bit of trash-talking. It’s been fun,” Becker said.
The Men’s Swim & Dive season will kick off next Fall as they pursue their fifth straight conference championship and extend their dynasty. Until then, it is safe to expect the Gustie swimmers will continue their passion on the court in preparation for next season.