Posted by William Eldredge
Go to any Skidmore Men's Swim Team meet and it's hard not to notice team Captain Sam Leibenhaut '12. When he's not swimming the butterfly— the most grueling stroke in the sport— you'll see him psyching up on-deck swimmers or cheering on his teammates in the pool. He broke the College record in the 400 medley relay his freshman year, and has been named to the Liberty League's All-Academic Team for two consecutive years. In addition to the butterfly, Leibenhaut also swims the individual medley, which is a combination of all four competitive strokes (butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle).
It's been a long road for the team's four year veteran, who describes swimming as "the hardest thing I've ever done. It's not like other sports," said Leibenhaut , "where you can cross-train and get better through doing other things. It's just swimming. The more you swim, the better you get, and if you stop, you get worse."
The sport's level of commitment has Leibenhaut singing the praises of his teammates. "It's the longest season of any sport on campus, and that, combined with how tough practices are, means that you really have to be crazy to swim." said Leibenhaut. For Leibenhaut, that special kind of crazy has only made the experience better.
"Everyone's really competitive on an individual level — it's not just swimming against other teams; some of your best competition will come from your own teammates, and sometimes it gets serious" Leibenhaut joked. "And then you get out of the pool and laugh it off. There really is an atmosphere on the team that's unlike any other, and it's great."
Although the team's 3-5 record might seem unimpressive on paper, it's been a strong season for Skidmore. The College hadn't won three meets in some 15 years prior, and, according to its captain, the best is yet to come. "We've had our ups and downs, but this is the biggest men's team in the history of the school and our underclassmen are some of the best we've had in a while. There's definitely a bright future for us," Leibenhaut said.
Next up for the Thoroughbreds is the Vassar Invitational this coming Saturday, an event for which Leibenhaut is more than excited. "At the beginning of the season, the focus is on distance, both in practice and meets, but this event is all about sprinting. The two events that I'm competing in — the 50 fly and 100 individual medley — are half the distance of what is considered a normal race, and that means that you get to go all out and not worry about conserving energy. This is the type of meet where you really see how much all the work you put in during the year pays off. I've especially done a lot of work on sprinting this season, so I'm really excited to see how things go" Leibenhaut said.
The Vassar Invitational is at 1 p.m. on, Saturday, Feb. 11, at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.