Fike Recreation Center is where students go to work out and take their minds off the stress of college. Every day you see numerous people in Fike riding stationary bikes, lifting weights and jumping off the high dive into the 25-meter pool. Stop by on certain days, however, and you will see something different going on in the pool: a swim meet. There you will find Chris Dart and the Clemson Swimming & Diving team working over their competition.
Chris Dart, a junior Communication Studies major, is originally from England but moved to Chatham, N.J., when he was four. The main events he competes in are the 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley.
“I got started in swimming because it came naturally to me, and I hate to lose. Swimming allowed me to win on a regular basis,” Dart stated.
Dart chose Clemson over several ACC schools coming out of high school for a variety of reasons, including the beautiful campus. “There were also lots of good-looking girls, and I really liked the team. The team is just like one big family,” Dart said.
Dart also decided to come to Clemson University because the head coach told him he could be part of something special. “One thing that really stuck out on the last day of my recruiting trip, the head coach pulled me aside and told me I could be part of something good, like the rebuilding of the team,” Dart said.
The young swimmer’s favorite memory here at Clemson University was competing in a meet against the University of South Carolina last year. “That was by far the best meet I’ve ever been to in my life,” Dart said. “The atmosphere was incredible.” Lots of swimmers had lifetime best performances against Clemson’s rival, which is unusual for the middle of the season. “We were going absolutely nuts,” Dart said. “The crowd, for a swim meet, was gigantic, and they were behind us the whole way.” Clemson ended up winning the meet, which came down to the last relay, 140 to 160.
Dart recently performed in the British Gas ASA National Championships in England. He posted three top-10 finishes in the 50-meter backstroke, 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley. When asked about his performance in the British Nationals, Dart said it was “obviously a little disappointing, because I wanted to win, but I guess third place was all right. To come back with some hardware was definitely a plus. I think my coach was happy with that.”
Dart has dual citizenship between the U.S. and England, but he decided to compete in the British Nationals instead of the U.S. Nationals. “I’d been there before, and I made the national team when I was 17, so I kind of had a background there,” Dart said.
This meet was also England’s qualification meet for the Commonwealth Games, which are basically the Olympics for countries England used to own.
The Clemson University Athletic Department has decided to disband the swimming and diving team after the next two seasons. “When the Athletic Department cut us, it was both heartbreaking and confusing at the same time. It was even slightly impersonal, since they only told half the team in person on the last day of school (due to the desire to prevent it from interfering with their final exams) and the other half received the news with a letter in the mail.
They would not answer our questions about the cut, instead avoiding the topic when we returned to campus and not allowing us to question them on the process. When they told us about the cut, they claimed the reasoning was their inability to fund the team as well as the building of a 50-meter training facility they felt we needed in order to be a successful collegiate swim program. We couldn’t understand why it would matter, since college swimming is competed in a 25-yard pool,” Dart said.
“We offered to try and fund the building of a pool ourselves, but they changed their reasoning for the termination of the swim program, saying they ‘were not fully committed to the swim and dive programs, and had not been for a long time.’ Although it was incredible to hear a Division I athletic school say they were not fully dedicated to the swimming and dive program, it had become evident and obvious over the years. Our Associate Athletic Director, Phil Grayson, fell asleep in the stands listening to music during almost every meet he attended, including the ACC championships.”
Dart said he thought about transferring to Florida State but decided against doing it after remembering why he came to Clemson. “Honestly, I can’t leave this place. I chose it over Florida State for a reason coming out of high school,” Dart said. “The swim team is definitely the closest team on campus. We spend more time together than anyone else, so there was no way I could leave these people. They’re basically like my second family.”
Dart and the rest of the swim team are bonding despite the team being disbanded, and they have come up with a way to link themselves together. The swim team’s motto is “bring on the ruckus,” and a few of the members of the team have gotten tattoos to commemorate the team logo. “We take the ‘B’ and the ‘R’ from bring, the ‘O’ from on, the ‘T’, ‘H’ and the ‘E’ from the and the ‘R’ and ‘S’ from ruckus,” Dart said. “We got the word ‘BRothers’ tattooed, with a capital ‘BR’, then lowercase the rest of the letters.”
Dart has high expectations for the upcoming season, saying this is the deepest team they have had for a long time. “We’re just entering the third week of practice and firing on all cylinders,” Dart said. “Everyone looks great. Everyone looks determined. I think this season’s going to be special. We’re basically swimming with a chip on our shoulder.”
The team’s main goal for this year is to silence some doubters and to try and change the decision from the Athletic Department. “We really want to keep our tradition alive,” Dart said. “But it looks like the Athletic Department is determined to make us go, and we’re just trying to go out with a bang if they are.”
Come out this season and help support the team starting with the Orange & White Meet on Friday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.
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