Watko details life in college swimming

Photo courtesy of Cothalee Watko | Cothalee Watko, a freshman on the Xavier swimming team from Cary, N.C., talked about the adjustments to his daily life as a student-athlete.


With swim season kicking into gear, freshman student- athlete Cothalee Watko offerered insight into the team and what it is like to be a Xavier swimmer.

A prominent aspect of the team is its brotherly dynamic — in fact, it’s the main reason why Watko, a native of Cary, N.C., chose to swim at Xavier.

“The weekend I visited consisted of tons of bonding,” Watko remembered. “It was nothing like what I had experienced on my high school team.”

The team bonding carries out into his day-to-day life. One can find the swimmers sitting together in the caf every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eating meals with the team isn’t a requirement.

“It’s just a thing that happens,” Watko said. “It’s great because it strengthens the team’s bond and brings us closer together.”

Another big part of Watko’s life is practice. Swimmers practice twice a day on Mondays and Wednesdays for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Watko is a distance swimmer, and for him, Monday practices are all about kicking.

“We’ll kick anywhere between 1,000 to 3,000 yards,” he said. Wednesday practices are focused on resistance training.

One of the most challenging exercises done are “power towers,” which entails the swimmers doing laps while ropes attached to buckets full of water are hooked around the swimmers’ waists. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the swimmers lift for an hour, and on Fridays they have one afternoon swim practice. NCAA requires that athletes have a day with no practice, so they are usually off on Sundays.

When Watko is not at practice or sharing a meal with the team, he’s most likely studying. Watko is a biomedical sciences major and is currently taking 17 credit hours. One thing that helps keep him on track with academics is study tables. All freshman Xavier athletes are required to spend at least eight hours a week studying in Cintas Center under supervision. Watko is in favor of study tables.

“It forces you to get your work done and stay focused on academics because we are, above all else, students,” he said.

Watko shared that swimming doesn’t get much fan support because Xavier doesn’t host any swim meets — the reason for this being that the pool is not regulation sized for competition.

The pool, located in O’Connor Sports Center, has four lanes. However, six lanes are needed for competitive meets.

The swimmers will remain in O’Connor even with the new Health United Building being built. Construction for a redesigned swimming pool is set to take place with the groundbreaking of the Heidt Family Champions Center in 2020. This will allow for the pool to receive two extra swim lanes and additional deck space, enabling Xavier to host swim meets.

Watko hopes Xavier can eventually host meets because it would significantly lighten the travel schedule swimmers have. Throughout the swim season, Wakto is traveling for competitions almost every weekend from now until February.

A final key to the team’s success is the coaching staff. Head coach Brent MacDonald is a proponent of following the Xavier athletic mission statement. It is posted in each of the swimmers lockers. Also, the other coaches swam at Xavier and graduated within the past two to four years. Watko views this as a huge benefit.

“The coaches know the team environment,” he said. “They know what fits us as a team best because they themselves were on the team not too long ago.”

With the combination of a strong team bond, intense practices and a great coaching staff, Watko is excited and ready for his first season swimming at Xavier.


By: Emilie Kracik | Guest Writer

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