One, one-hundredth of a second. One, one-thousandth of a second. This is truly how small the window for error can be when it comes to competing for Nevada’s Women’s Swim and Dive program.
Within the last three seasons, the program has seen a great deal of turnover at the head coaching position. After Abby Steketee’s departure in 2015 to coach at Northwestern, a man by the name of Neil Harper took over the program, taking Nevada to a conference championship in his inaugural ’15-’16 season. However, even in the wake of such success, Harper resigned shortly after the championship win to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks. Harper’s departure was unforeseeable, putting Nevada in a tough spot, with nobody at the helm.
Out of all the haze and uncertainty came Reno native Brendon Bray. With now 13 years of coaching experience in his wheelhouse, Bray has an extensive coaching background, as well as being a highly decorated swimmer. Bray is now in his second season with Nevada, coming off a third-place finish in the Mountain West Championships during the teams ’16-’17 campaign.
“I thought it was a great start for us and we’re really going to build from there,” said Bray.
With Bray returning for his second season the team looks more comfortable with where the program is going and the continuity within both the coaching staff and the swimmers and divers.
Just like any person who is leading a group toward a common goal, it’s a necessity that the individual leading the charge has a philosophy worth following. Bray has a mindset that he’s cemented in his team’s mind of how he wants to compete.
“We want to be competitive and aggressive in our races,” Bray said. I want the girls to have fun and have a good connection with each other. I think by doing all of those things we’re going to do really well.”
The team has been a force to be reckoned with in the Mountain West and in out-of-conference swim meets. Although Nevada went 3-2 in the team’s dual meets this season, the program took first place in all but one invitational. On top of performing well in the pool, the team has been an academic powerhouse for the last two seasons, with an overall team GPA of 3.57 in 2016 and a 3.51 this season.
When it comes to college swimming and diving, it’s important to understand that although swimmers and divers compete separately, the sport is still team based.
“We’re more about trying to perform for the team, then to perform individually,” Bray said. “A lot of times that’s a hard change to make. When you’re a club swimmer it’s very individualized. But for college, we know every day, every session where we are in comparison to other teams. Everybody needs to do their part.”
The importance of camaraderie is embedded in the culture of swimming and diving, but sometimes the close ones come down to just one swimmer being a hundredth of a second late, or a diver not rotating fully during a twisting dive. Adversity comes in all forms, and Nevada faced it’s first set early in the season, during the team’s 163-137 loss to the Boise State Broncos at Lombardi pool on Oct. 27, 2017.
“We lost all four of the close races we were in,” Bray said. “If one of those races had flipped our way we probably would’ve ended up winning the meet. To me that’s a huge motivation for us, that we were that close to beating the defending champions and I think that that can be a good rallying call for us going into the conference meet, to try and win the close races.”
With the Mountain West Championships beginning on Feb. 14 In San Antonio, Texas, Nevada will face its fair share of close races. When the tournament comes to a close on Feb. 17, the Wolf Pack could be raising the Mountain West trophy for the second time in just three seasons.