From Fresh Water, Comes New Beginnings with Carr Pool


Maria Turner

Sophomore Laura Young dives into the new pool.

The new Patricia ’63 and Merrill ’61 Shanks Health and Wellness Center has given Oberlin students access to a new fitness center, state-of-the-art cardio machines, and several multi-purpose rooms. But perhaps the most impressive renovation is the swimming pool. Although Carr Pool is open to all students, those who have most directly benefited from its renovation are the athletes on Oberlin’s swim teams.

Pools constructed for competitive swimming all tend to look the same: the water is a fluorescent blue, lane lines stretch horizontally across the surface, and the walls display banners, clocks, and records that have been set in the facility.

Carr Pool is no different. It has the same chlorine smell, the walls bear Oberlin’s colors and logo, and there’s a certain peacefulness to the space. However, the pool has idiosyncrasies whose importance can only be understood by those who spend enough time there.

The men’s and women’s swim teams have been practicing in Carr Pool for only a month or so, but for them, it already feels like home.

“The new pool is super fast and feels great,” said College sophomore and women’s team captain Molly Marshall. “I love swimming in it, and having our own pool is making the start of the season feel fantastic. I am very excited for our home meets this year.”

Last year, both swim teams were forced to practice at the Splash Zone Aquatic Center half a mile south of Oberlin. Their practice schedules were grueling. For much of the year, the athletes had to commute to their 6:15–8:15 a.m. practice each morning and 7–8:30 p.m. practices twice a week.

“Not going to lie, last year was definitely tough with the whole pool situation, but I’m super excited for the season this year,” said College sophomore and swimmer Ellisa Lang. “With the new pool and new coach, I think Oberlin Swimming and Diving will really excel this year. We’re really hyped as a team.”

In previous years, both the women’s and men’s teams consisted mostly of veteran athletes. But this year, first-year students fill up most of their rosters. This change is extremely exciting for College senior and men’s team captain Jacques Forbes.

“This year we’ve got a really young and talented team,” said Forbes. “[Our swimmers] have a great outlook on both this season and the direction we’re headed in the future.”

The specifics of a college sports team change every year; the rosters shift, and the strengths and weaknesses of the team change.

“I’ve had [the fortune to have swum] with a number of great people all throughout my time here at Oberlin,” Forbes said. “I try to remember what the people that I looked up to in the past did and how they acted, and try to emulate some of those qualities when interacting with my teammates.”

Drawing on what he praised in his past teammates, Forbes exemplifies the higher mindset of a senior on a serious sports team — he knows it’s important to show newer, younger members of the team practical strategies for improving their swimming skills and attitude. The key to a team’s longevity is its ethos, what the team stands for beyond each game. This is often only known by the athletes on the team. When Forbes was a first-year, he studied the sport from the seniors and emulated them the best he could, in technique but also in behavior and attitude.

Seniors are responsible for supporting first-years, but the coach’s job is to help everyone.

In addition to the new facilities, the swimming and diving program welcomes new Head Coach Alex de la Pena, who previously worked as an assistant coach at Oberlin from 2009–2011. Since then, de la Pena has coached at Monmouth College, Brown University, and Pfeiffer University, all of which achieved considerable success under his coaching.

After a nine-year reprieve, he finds himself back where he started in 2009.

“The community and sense of pride that everyone has in the College separates Oberlin from other schools,” said de le Pena. “The passion and drive of the student-athletes here for both academics and athletics is what helps them become successful after they graduate.”

Members of the team are eager to get to know their new head coach better.

“Coach de la Pena is really great, and his enthusiasm to be back at Oberlin is really apparent to the point where it is contagious,” said College sophomore and swimmer Jill Jaczkowski. “I think the team is just as excited for him to be here as he is, which is really great.”

Carr Pool, a large number of first-years, a new head coach — there are plenty of changes to the swimming program. But Forbes and any upperclassman will probably tell you that a team, underneath the surface, is made of wisdom and tradition passed down through generations of athletes. The pool is new, the coach is new, and a lot of the faces are new as well, but the team isn’t. The first home meet is Saturday, Nov. 10 against the University of Mount Union Purple Raiders.