Lawton and Smits aim to get men’s swimming and diving prepared for METS

The Rowan men's swimming and diving team celebrate their third NJAC title in a row with a win over The College of New Jersey. -Photo courtesy of Rowan Athletics.

What’s worse? Having your bus break down or having members of your team battle the flu during a meet week?

Well, for Brad Bowser’s team, he was stuck with both.

After finally arriving in Kings Point, New York at 11:30 a.m., the Rowan men’s swimming and diving team was greeted with suboptimal prep space and a frigid pool deck ahead of their meet against United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). These were all less than ideal conditions that ultimately broke the team’s focus and led them to a 192-108 defeat, according to Bowser.

“The conditions were just not set for us whereas Merchant Marine knew what they were going to have,” Bowser said. “They knew what to expect.”

Senior captain Dave Smits had the same sentiments, saying the team felt unprepared whereas, prior to their New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC)-sealing meet against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), they were all “hyped up” to see their rival and that led to their success. But this loss may come with a silver lining.

“That team, we’re going to see them at METS (Metropolitan Conference Championships) in three weeks as well,” Smits said. “They’re now on their high horse thinking they can beat us but we’re going to come back.”

And this is exactly the kind of message Smits and fellow senior captain Dan Lawton want to pass onto their teammates. Bowser considers them a voice between the coaching staff and the team and they like to consider themselves a rock to lean on.

Lawton considers himself the type to lead by example and motivate his teammates to train harder and perform better. Smits, on the other hand, considers himself more of a social leader bouncing from swimmer to swimmer, class to class, making sure everyone is okay and keeps the group functioning as a cohesive family unit.

“The team is everything to us,” Lawton said. “We’re a family. We spend so many hours per week, eight practices per week together. It’s really just like family.”

These complimentary leadership skills are vitally important and it’s certainly going to show in the coming weeks. The Metropolitan Conference Championships are Feb. 22-24 and could either be the jumping point to the NCAA Division III Championships or it could be their last meet of the year.

Lawton, who has been there three times and has goals beyond METS, plans to use his skills to motivate the team to swim better and impart his wisdom to the underclassmen. Smits plans to prepare the team for the big moment when the deafening roar from the crowd can be distracting but the support the team gives each other lifts everyone up.  

The captains have their message but Bowser has his as well. He and the captains have noticed a repeating issue in their races that, once fixed, should take the team to the next level.

“Finish races,” Bowser said. “Breakout properly, finish the races, clean up turns. But really the big thing at the end of the day is finishing the race. Building up to that finish.”

For a team that has already won their division for a third year in a row, tweaking a few small things should be scary for the other team at METS. 

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