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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Sports

Inside the UH swimming and diving team’s dominance, culture


Senior dive captain Jolie Blodgett performs a dive off the board for the UH swimming and dive team. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Competing in its final season as members of the American Athletic Conference, the UH swimming and dive team will exit the conference as one of the most dominant programs in 10 years of the AAC’s existence.

Having won six consecutive AAC swimming and diving titles, the Cougars have made a journey in its ascension to the top of the conference, as well as its reign to remain at the top for the better part of the last decade.

The culture that has been built within this UH swimming and diving program was not developed overnight, but rather through a continuation of hard work and dedication to reach the levels it has thus far.

“Being a head coach and coaching this team is really an honor because we have the majority if not every single one of our athletes buying into just that,” said coach Jamison about the team’s hard-working culture. “They not only want to be successful in the pool and on the boards, but they also want to be successful academically. That’s the type of student-athlete that you want for your program.”

Jamison, who arrived to the program in 2021, stepped into a role left by former head coach Ryan Wochomurka, who spent seven seasons at UH.

With big shoes to fill, Jamison fit right into the culture and maintained the level of competition and dominance that was established heading into 2021. The UH swimming and dive team capped the season with a 7-2 record and a sixth consecutive AAC title, a first for Jamison in her first season with the team.

“I definitely think that taking over a program that has had much success definitely has those expectations to continue, but the way that we approach each season is doing our very best day in and day out,” said Jamison. “When we get to the meet, if we do our best, we should be able to have some great success, whether that means winning a conference title or not. It’s all about getting our athletes to perform to their very best each season. The rewards, or award, will come with that.”

From an athlete’s perspective, the Cougars have proved over the better part of the last decade that true leadership bleeds through from class to class. The cycle of upperclassmen becoming leaders and helping guide their underclassmen teammates and preparing them to lead when their time comes has been a catalyst in the success the UH swimming and dive has experienced.

“I would say ever since I came into the program as a freshman, you really see where the team leaders are,” senior diving captain Jolie Blodgett said. “The upperclassmen are the leaders. Going through that process and seeing them lead us was a great opportunity for me now as a senior to take that role and put my spin on it.”

Student-athletes live and maintain a physically, emotionally, and mentally-demanding lifestyle that comes with being a part of collegiate athletics. For the UH swimming and dive team, having the ability to bond with teammates and building a close-knit team helped get the chemistry going, an element crucial to translating relationships and enhancing performances in and out of the pool.

“We’re all really comfortable with being ourselves,” said Blodgett. “Everybody has their own personality as their own individual person, and we’re all just really comfortable with being ourselves. When we’re all together, there’s never a moment that we’re not laughing or cheering each other on. I would say being able to be comfortable as you are with each other is probably the biggest part of our culture here.”

The remainder of this season will be the last for UH in the AAC, with a move to the Big 12 confirmed for the start of the 2023 season. A transition that will tremendously impact every UH athletic program, the Cougars see the new conference not only as a new challenge but an opportunity to continue the growth that has occurred within the program in recent years.

“I think it’s a big pull,” senior swim captain Elizabeth Richardson said. “I know a big pull for getting recruited here was you get to be in a big conference and you get to score points. Going into the Big 12, you’re getting into another situation where you have a lot more benefits being in a bigger conference, and so it’s going to pull a lot more with recruiting as well.”

Expectations from within the program expect to remain high after the move to the Big 12, as the team has its sights set on continuing to polish the elements of success that it has donned for the last several years.

“We’re focusing on developing that team culture, ”Richardson said. “We have to make people want to be a part of this hardworking team that strives for seven consecutive conference titles. Hopefully we can continue that heading into the Big 12 and have a new goal when we get there.”

Until then, the Cougars will keep striving for their seventh consecutive AAC title. While there is still preparation to be made, Jamison believes that the team has well-represented the culture that has been built and contributed to the success that has been attained.

“This season we had a lot of high expectations with where our team was going based on the success that we’ve had in the past six, seven seasons,” Jamison said. “We just keep getting better every practice and every meet. We’re right on track.”

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