UNCW swimming wraps up another successful season

Cam Ellis | Assistant Sports Editor

As I sat in the dimly lit UNCW swimmers lounge, I couldn’t help but think one thing.

God, it’s humid in here.

The suffocating humidity of an indoor swimming pool should be one of those “terrible-but-endearing” aspects of a college sporting event, similar to how the UNC Wilmington baseball staff shoves all the students in small, overcrowded and uncomfortable bleachers while the seating at Brooks Field and on the centerfield hill belong to paying and absent patrons. (Another rant for another day.)

But no one knows how humid the UNCW swimming pool is. No one knows how the men’s swim team won their 12th straight CAA League championship. Last time UNCW didn’t win a league championship, ENRON was a functioning company. Last time UNCW didn’t win a league championship, the swimmers had to use their Walkman, because the iPod hadn’t been invented yet.

No one knows about Coach Dave Allen, the UNCW Swim Coach who not only started the team back in 1977, but has continued to coach at an elite level, turning the men’s program into a legitamate dynasty and expanding the size of the women’s team by over 600%. No one knows that Coach Allen has been named CAA Coach of the Year an astonishing 14 times in 35 years, all for a non-revenue sport. John Wooden; who undoubtedly would be on the Mt. Rushmore of colligate coaches, only won a Coach-of-the-Year 6 times. When asked about his continued success, Allen immediately displayed the confidence and humility that has made him a beloved figure among UNCW athletics for almost 40 years.

“All the motivation and effort comes from the athletes,” he said. “My focus has always been on the group effort, that every individual improves to help the team.”

One of those individuals is senior girl Carly Tanner. If there were a list of athletes that never received proper recognition during their tenure at UNCW, Tanner would be at the top of the list. Names like Blizzard, Rendleman and even Silvagni (for all you surfers out there) will dominate the conversation for the title of premier UNCW athlete, and deservedly so. But not including Tanner in the conversation is highway robbery in the purest sense of the word. Her accomplishments include: CAA Champion in 3 Events: 50 Free, 100 Free, and 100 Breast, Co-Conference Swimmer of the Meet at CAA Championships, and All-CAA 1st Team for 5 different events. And that was only her senior year.  She was also the 2nd swimmer in UNCW history to qualify and compete at the NCAA Swimming Championships, a meet that is arguably harder to qualify for than the Olympic qualifying meet. Tanner attributes her success to her undying work ethic, something she picked up more seriously in college.

“I didn’t want to look back on my UNCW career and think ‘What if?’,” she said. “That really motivated me to do anything that I needed to do to be the best.”

Out of the pool, Tanner and Allen are both polite and accommodating. Sitting in the lounge, the two took turns gushing about the other, a testament to the strength of the relationship between the UNCW Swim Coach and his swimmers.

“Carly is one of the best examples of how hard our swimmers work,” Allen said.

Tanner blushes slightly and the two make eye contact, an exchange that looks more like a father embarrassing a daughter than a coach talking about an athlete. The feeling was noticeably mutual, with Tanner using adjectives like “our rock” and “our leader” to describe what Allen meant to her and the other swimmers. In a week of sporting news dominated by the actions of Rutgers Basketball coach Mike Rice, who was fired for his grotesque physical and verbal abuse of his players, it was beyond refreshing to sit back and see the positive impact a coach can have on his athletes, and vice-versa.

Graduation is next for Tanner, while Allen has already begun preparing for the 2013-2014 season. What lies ahead for Tanner and Allen? Will UNCW Swimming start to receive the recognition it deserves? No one knows. There’s a lot of uncertainty, whether it’s graduation or the blank page of a new season.

One thing, however, is certain.

That pool will be humid.