While the Ohio Wesleyan University swimming team was practicing in the Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center, Taylor Smith ’14 was battling the outdoors on October 1, swimming in the Open Water Swimming Collegiate National Championships in Austin, Texas.
Much different from indoor swim competitions, this competition was a 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race in which competitors battle not only each other, but the many forces of nature. The competition was open to any full-time student in college or above (medical students, graduate students, etc.)
Smith handled the competition well, taking second place in the individual men’s competition. Smith has been swimming in open water competitions for several years and has been successful. However, this was his first 5k open water race.
This is the first time a swimmer from Ohio Wesleyan has competed in an open-water swim competition. “Open-water swimming takes a different mindset than what is typical for most competitive swimmers, some don’t like not knowing what is below them,” says head swimming coach Richard Hawes.
Why has this been the only Ohio Wesleyan swimmer to compete in a competition such as this? Smith can explain, “Open water is extremely different. In a pool you’re all by yourself in your lane and you have walls, plus the events aren’t as long. Open water has so many different factors including water temperature, air temperature, wind, current, tide, waves, sun, sighting the course and landscape, other people, no walls to do turns and rest on, and much longer events.”
Smith trained on his own, and with the help of Hawes, specifically for this event. In-water training consisted of swimming 6-7 days out of the week, “averaging around 9000 yards a day the last couple of weeks before the race,” says Smith. On-land training consisted of running, and core and strength training using TRX and pilates. During the summer Smith was able to train in the open water and competed in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (4.4 miles) and took second place.
While Smith continues to contribute to the Ohio Wesleyan swimming team, he now has the accolade of being a champion outdoor swimmer, proving that no matter where he is, if there is a body of water he is able to swim, and win. He is a multi-faceted swimmer and faces the challenges of open waters successfully. “It’s not only swimming against other swimmers, but also against the challenge of the elements,” notes Smith.