Current Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 06:00:34 -0400
There were no lanes, guiding flags or turns, and the competitors were as young as 11 years old.
Far from a normal competition for Division I swimmers, the eighth annual Pier-2-Pier open-water swim Saturday in Wrightsville Beach proved to be a promising, if unconventional, start for the North Carolina swimming team.
UNC sophomore Kelsey Cummings won the women’s race, and junior Dan O’Connor took the men’s.
Cummings, who finished first in her age group in last year’s Pier-2-Pier , said she uses the unique race as a monotony-breaker from the everyday training in the pool.
“It’s more interesting,” she said of the swim. “It’s fun and more free.”
Cummings finished the approximately two-mile course in 31:25, and O’Connor completed it in 30:22.
It’s no surprise that the pair captured the titles — Cummings and O’Connor both specialize in distance events.
Coach Rich DeSelm said that there were other college swimmers competing — UNC-Wilmington and Davidson were in the field — but that the race was nothing more than a nice change of pace to begin the season.
“We have an element on our team that likes to do it, and they have fun with it,” DeSelm said, adding that UNC had two men and five women swimmers at the race. “It’s really nothing more than that.”
The swim provided some mental solace for the swimmers, Cummings said.
“The longer, open-water races make the pool races seem a lot shorter,” she said, adding that she thinks the preseason success could carry over to the regular season.
The Tar Heels, whose real season begins Sept. 29 with the Blue vs. White intrasquad home meet, hope to use the weekend performances as a gauge of how the team will fare when the competition is Virginia or Duke — instead of recreational swimmers.
“We’ve barely started training, we have a good group,” DeSelm said. “It’s a fairly young team — we lost some seniors that were very impactful.”
And if Saturday’s swim is any indication, there are two swimmers who could help replace them.
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