With just one round left in the Patriot League Swim and Dive Championships, first-year Ben Kisker broke the school record in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of one minute and 47.56 seconds.
“I wasn’t expecting to, but, when I hit the wall, my (junior) captains Miles (Cox) and Connor (Drucis) were right there, and they were like, ‘Look! Look! Look! Look!’ telling me to look at the board,” Kisker said. “I saw 1:47.5, and I was like, ‘Holy crap.’”
Kisker’s captains weren’t the only ones who were enthusiastic about his time. Head coach Rob Herb witnessed Kisker’s feat alongside assistant coach Joe Huber.
“I turned to Joe (Huber), and Joe’s about 6 (feet) 3 (inches tall), and I lifted him off the ground and shook him around,” Herb said. “We were very excited for Ben (Kisker).”
The Patriot League Championships took place at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and spanned four days.
Herb said there were between 600 and 700 people in the stands and about 1,000 people total, including the teams.
“When you’re swimming (at Bucknell), you can still hear everyone,” Kisker said. “That’s never been the case. This one felt different.”
The team trained for the Patriot League Championships for months. Kisker said they lifted three times a week and practiced six times a week starting in September.
Kisker said training was hard, but nothing he wasn’t used to.
Kisker’s been swimming since he was 5 years old on both club and school teams. In high school, he was captain of his swim team during his junior and senior year.
Herb attributes Kisker’s accomplishments to his work ethic. He said Kisker is strong and coachable.
“(Kisker’s) attitude toward training and to the coaches has always been to soak up as much information as you can,” Herb said. “Not only just the attitude of training but just as a kind of natural strength. And then there’s just love for the sport. He is someone who you just want to talk to. He’s very pleasant and engaging.”
Going into league championships, Kisker said he was not expecting to break a record—he was just hoping to swim his fastest. He said seeing his results was “wild.”
While Kisker raced individually, the team trained and supported one another together, something Drucis said helps them each perform at their best.
“As a collective group, we were able to focus on the little things and develop a positive team atmosphere, which allowed us to be successful in the long run,” Drucis said.
Kisker said even with training and support, nerves are something you can’t prepare for.
He said being down to one round and having a loud crowd of spectators watching him cranked up the pressure, but he found ways to calm himself down.
“I always try to talk to people because if I can do that (it) just takes my mind off it,” Kisker said. “Then, right before, that’s when I get really focused and try to turn my nerves into excitement.”
Although the season concluded, the team continues to train for next year.
Kisker said he has a lot of work to do. His next step is training for the 100-yard backstroke.
“I’m very proud of our underclassmen this year,” Drucis said. “They definitely created an atmosphere, and that helped us win. I’m excited that the young guys on this team are pushing the program in the right direction.”