The Orange Bowl Swim Classic has been the premier feature of winter training at the Jacobs Aquatics Center since its inception in 2002, and despite the facility taking a big hit from Hurricane Irma, it will remain so in 2018 and beyond.
Year-in and year-out, college teams head to Key Largo, Florida, for their winter training, and experience island lifestyle while putting in their most productive two weeks of training of the year.
“One thing that sets it apart from other places training trips go to is that all the accommodations are in walking distance, which is really nice for our teams and coaches, especially if you have a bunch of different coaches or training groups or training times happening down here,” Assistant Pool Director Abbie Fish told SwimSwam. “You get a nice lifestyle with your everyday training regime.”
Early on, trip organizers realized that they could give teams the opportunity to compete in a way that was consistent with NCAA regulations, and it would be a unique chance for all kinds of teams to mingle both in the pool and out of it.
“It’s an opportunity for some teams that are in different conferences to cross over,” Meet Coordinator Kelli Cuppett explained. “We were trying to help teams arrange that competition, then put into a fun competition that satisfies their requirements, and also creates a professional environment for them to do that in.”
In the wake of Hurricane Irma, both winter training and meet participant numbers are down – but not for good. “Our goal is to have the meet stay between 6-10 teams and we only have four, so just a little bit different. We anticipate it next year being up to the regular number of teams and being the full-blown Swim Classic, as we like to call it,” Fish said.
Fish attributes this drop largely to accommodation difficulties: as a result of the hurricane, many hotels were flooded and/or lost their roofs, and have yet to recover, shrinking the number of rooms available and driving up the cost of those that are.
However, those that do make it this year will enjoy a catered post-meet banquet and will get shirts that read ‘We are US 1,’ as the Keys are on the famed highway.
“That’s been a big thing in the Keys, especially after Irma hit, is staying together, and coming together as a community and just allowing this place to rebuild, and giving it the time that it needs to,” Fish said. “We’re letting our college students walk around here, portraying that to the locals, and it’s just really well received and gets people fired-up about the fact that we’re not giving up and that we’re going to come back even stronger.”
Regardless of the meet size, it’s all in the name of the fun times that winter training trips are best known for: “Ultimately we hope that the teams have a good time, it’s in good spirit, and we have some fast swims — that’s really what we’re looking for,” Cuppett said.
All Winter Training Teams (* are teams in the meet)
- Kalamazoo (Men and Women)
- West Virginia (Men and Women)
- *Duquesne (Women Only)
- *South Dakota (Men and Women)
- *Texas A&M (Men only)
- Washington College
- Columbia University
- Monmounth University