By Brandon Cruz
The tune of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” resonated across the airplane that held the Nevada women’s swim and dive team as the Wolf Pack returned home triumphant, from its four-day stint in College Station, Texas. The competition the team faced in the Lone Star State wasn’t easy in the slightest, but when adversity struck, the Pack showed it the door.
Throughout the season, coach Neil Harper had a simple goal for his team, “not allowing the youngsters to feel sorry for themselves.” As much as they may have wanted to wallow in self-pity during a defeat, coach Harper, his staff and their teammates wouldn’t tolerate it. While it may have been hard for the swimmers to set aside despair and anguish, in the end their ability to keep looking forward is the primary reason they became Mountain West Conference Champions.
In the waning moments, during day four of the Mountain West Conference Championships, Nevada trailed Boise State by 10 and a half points, with just two events remaining. But Nevada wasn’t shaken by this deficit.
“We kind of knew there would be some events where they would score higher than us, but we knew we had ours coming,” Harper said. “We knew that our last three events were very strong. I think we were the only team in the building that knew that was coming.”
Harper is referring to the come-behind victory his team orchestrated. The Wolf Pack dominated the second to last event and was in the lead with 17 and a half points, following Krysta Palmer’s first-place finish, Zoe Lei’s second-place finish and Sharae Zhang’s fourth-place finish on the platform dive. Teresa Baerens (JR), Emma Payne (SO), Caitlyn Richardson (FR) and Rebecca Murray (FR) were now in the driver’s seat. The Wolf Pack’s championship fate lay in their hands. They went on to become the unsung heroes of the Nevada women’s swim and dive program.
Coachfore.org defines a championship caliber team as one that consists of a strong work ethic, team chemistry and trust. The Nevada women’s swim and dive team has all of these characteristics and boasts them proudly. But there is one characteristic not mentioned by the site that is often overlooked. Selflessness is huge when referring to a championship team, because the player has to want to be there, not only for themselves, but the group as a whole. They have to relish competition within their own team, instead of shying away from it.
Coach Harper understands this and has a challenge for the people of the world. He’d like to challenge anyone to look at his team and pick out anyone that’s selfish.
The Nevada women’s swim and dive team deserves infinite praise for its accomplishments in the Mountain West championships in College Station, Texas.
“[I’m] very proud of the athletes for being able to pursue their degree while mastering their arts,” said President Marc Johnson at the team celebration on Sunday, Feb. 21.
President Johnson isn’t alone in this statement, as the university gave the team a warm welcome, upon entering the lobby of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
“After a week of blood, sweat and tears, I was really proud of their efforts and they did a nice job,” Harper said.
Brandon Cruz can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.