Men’s swimming and diving head to Metropolitan Championships looking to win meet for fourth year in a row

Kevin Gillooly prepares for an event earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Rowan Athletics.

Yogi Berra once said, “Ninety percent of the game is half mental.”

At its core, Berra meant that the real game is played in the mind and your mentality can dictate your performance and ultimately affect the outcome of an outing. He just gave it the Yogi Berra touch.

This weekend, Daniel Lawton will wake up, eat a bagel and fruit for breakfast, head to the hotel pool and stretch for 25 to 30 minutes before even getting a toe wet.

He has this all planned days in advance because he knows exactly what to expect already.

He knows where his mind is. It’s all about keeping his brain prepared and staying level-headed.

Ambiguity aside, the Profs are doing their best to keep Berra’s sentiment alive as they head into the Metropolitan Conference Championship (METS) this weekend.

Head coach Brad Bowser actually almost reiterated Berra’s quote himself.

“It’s always a mentality,” Bowser said. “We’re now at a point where it’s 90 percent mental and then 10 percent physical. They’ve done the work, now it’s like taking the rest of it and putting it into the mental side.”

He just seems to bet better at math than the Yankee great.

From experienced vets like Lawton, a senior captain, to rookies like freshman Kevin Yanagisawa, the goal of keeping a positive mindset is of utmost importance. Rowan has shown truth to this, as it’s already won its third consecutive conference title. Now, they can use mentality as a weapon to help them secure their fourth straight METS title.

“We’re going to do visualization of our races and that usually helps to get focused for the meet,” Lawton said. “Where we all just close our eyes and just visualize how the race is going to go. That usually helps.”

Bowser explains this process as a way to calm his team’s nerves in a high-pressure environment. They can remember what it was like to feel calm while also thinking about what they need to do to win that race. Bowser says that, when faced with the intensity at METS, the team has to remember what it was like in their mind so they can eliminate the nerves and just swim.

This has worked for Lawton, who has done well at the meet every year and plans to continue with his same mentality from years past.

Yanagisawa, who will be tackling the biggest meet of his young collegiate career, hopes to drop time but more importantly wants his teammates to swim well.

“I just want the team to do really well,” Yanagisawa said. “Because swimming is really a team sport, even though it’s thought of as an individual sport. It’s really just a team sport because if one person does well then the whole team rises up and does well with them.”

Year after year, Bowser sets out to create a team culture and year after year he succeeds. He says this team-first mindset is instinctive to the older swimmers at this point and passes on to each generation. Yanagisawa even goes so far to say it’s a family environment more so than the club teams he’s swam with in the past.

“I’ll breathe to my left I see them cheering, I breathe to the right I see them cheering even more,” Yanagisawa said. “You know they’re there for you. You know they’re there to back you up, and keep you going and push you harder because even if they’re not in the pool with you, they’re mentally swimming with you.”

METS is also the team’s opportunity to qualify for NCAA Division III Championships. Aside from sophomore Kevin Gillooly, who likely will be invited thanks to his times from the WPI Gompei Invitational in December, the rest of the team needs to use this meet to be able to extend their season. Bowser expects Gillooly and junior Matt Grubb to qualify for individual events along with one or two relays. With these combined with swimmers making B-cuts, Bowser expects to have around 20 swimmers at the meet.

But, it will all come down to how the team prepares for this weekend.

If they are able to keep the right mentality and remember the words of Yogi Berra, the team seems to be heading in the right direction.

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