Jan. 14, 2013
January 14, 2013
Our last weekend here in Hawaii has certainly been one to remember. Saturday started with our dual meet against the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. After 6 weeks of intense training without any meets to break up the schedule, we were all more than excited to get the chance to compete again. The Hawaii meet is always a unique experience for us. It’s typically our only outdoor meet of the college season, and for a bunch of swimmers more used to dealing with zero-degree temperatures than 90-degree ones, the biggest challenge can often be the hot sun. There were two canopies set up on our side of the pool to provide some artificial shade, and for most of the meet, we were all crowded under them like zebras using a tree to escape the searing African sun. When the engineers among us realized that the area of the shaded ground was significantly less than the combined volume of all 70-some swimmers and divers (we wouldn’t all fit, as they explained it to us liberal arts majors), we started spending some time in the on-deck weight room, which we used as a sheltered cave of sorts. I think Danny Brebrick started calling it his Bat-Cave.
Despite the sun, and fatigue from the weeks of training, we were able to put up some nice times against Hawaii. Luke Bushman made his first official appearance as a Gopher, winning three races and a relay. Gaining a workhorse like Luke will be huge for our championship season. Andrew Hartbarger put up a great time in the 200 IM, and Max Cartwright won the 200 breast with a fast 2:02 (besting some stiff competition from his excellent teammates).
After the meet was over, it was time for our annual team dinner, courtesy of the Fast Lane Fans. It’s a fun time. We get dressed up and look nice. The women take a few pictures.
Every year, we book some sort of buffet-style restaurant and then take the “all you can eat” title very literally. The food was excellent, and the buffet provided us a good opportunity to load up on fresh seafood, something we don’t get very often in Minnesota. Collectively, we also spent a good amount of time in the prime rib line and, of course, at the dessert table. I will probably never forget the look of childlike wonder and delight on Max Cartwright’s face as he first tasted the Crème Brulée. For me, the food was only made a little bit sweeter every time I checked the updated Packers-49ers score on my phone.
Sunday was our day off, and we decided to forgo resting in favor of packing as much activity into the day as possible. I woke up at 4:30 to board a van to North Shore, where Tess Behrens had organized a group outing dangerous and compelling enough to get 28 of us out of bed before sunrise on our day off: shark diving.
The boat took us out into the open ocean, dropped a floating cage into the water and pushed us in, leaving us to watch 10-foot-long sharks circle our collection of awe-inspired college students. Before we got in the water, Haley Spencer reminded me of our deal: if she got eaten by a shark, I had to write her obituary. Thankfully, she survived, because I really wasn’t interested in getting a homework assignment laid on me before classes start. The experience was incredible. It was really like a reverse zoo – we were in a cage, out of our element, and the sharks were coming from miles around to watch the newly imported Midwestern Gophers. I don’t know if the sharks had a good time, but we absolutely did. On the way back to shore, we spotted a pod of humpback whales surfacing, spouting, and even jumping out of the water. It’s absolutely an experience I’ll never forget.
We stopped at a local café for a hearty breakfast, then hit the beach at Waimea Bay, where the rest of the team joined us. (The divers came later because they, being the thrill seekers they are, had to one-up our shark diving by going skydiving). It was a busy afternoon of bodysurfing waves and catching rays. We snuck in a short game of touch football along the way (Felix Samuels insists that the name “football” is already taken by some other obscure sport, and prefers to call our version “Body-armoured Hand-egg,” but either way, he’s got quite an arm), and we finished the day with a team tradition of burying some of the freshmen in a large sand-octopus.
On the way back to Honolulu, we stopped at the Dole Pineapple Plantation for what I consider the second of the three main delicacies everyone visiting Hawaii needs to try: pineapple ice cream. As we chowed down on our waffle cones, pineapple floats, and pineapple sundaes, Derek Toomey, Jimmy Rafter, and Carl Newenhouse tackled the Plantation maze. I think they might still be in there, trying to find their way out. Assistant coach Tyler Gerst showed his inner 5-year-old, buying a souvenir crushed/imprinted penny from the vending machine.
After a long and eventful day, my roommates and I spent the evening watching “The Bourne Ultimatum” on TV. Sean Nesheim and DJ Friesch have been great roommates compared to last year, when I had to share a room with Danny Brebrick’s “Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl Champions” hat and watch whatever movie Sandy Whitaker picked out on TV (which included Piranha 3D).
Today, we’re back to training. We started things off with a max-effort kick set this morning, and things will only accelerate before we fly home Friday night. But as always, we’re excited to hit the pool hard for one more week and enjoy our last days here in Hawaii!