This year, Sterling College welcomes a new sport on campus under head coach Gary Kempf — swimming. Along with his wife, Dorothy, the duo has helped bring the program to life.
“I had been talking about [stepping down as the Athletic Director to become the swim coach],” Gary Kempf said. “I knew about a year and a half ago and started talking to Scott Rich about it. I wanted to get back involved more in athletes’ lives and less on the administrative side.”
Working with students drives Kempf’s passion for coaching.
“The most exciting part has been getting back in with the athletes one-on-one. I’ve coached most of my life and that’s why — you want to be involved in people’s lives,” he said.
A good amount of work has been done over the last few years to the swimming area to get it ready for this team, such as installing a new airduct system and air conditioning. Crews also redid the bottom of the pool and the deck.
“Really just revamped this whole area here, and then just started getting the word out,” Kempf said.
Even though the team is starting from scratch, Kempf said he has been impressed with how the swimmers have done.
“The team has done better in competition so far than I had anticipated,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but this group has bought into something that they’ve never done before. They’re proud of being the building block foundation of the program, and they’ve done really well with that.”
Senior Cord Harrington said he feels like a lot of people are starting to come into their roles on the team.
“Having so many freshmen, there was a lot of people trying to find their way still,” he said. “The dynamic is getting more and more competitive. I have definitely noticed a lot of people, as we go through practices now, are starting to step up and starting to compete.”
Kempf agreed. “I wish I had videoed them the first week so I could show them now what they look like,” said he said. “Because they have worked really, really hard, and they’ve listened well and made adjustments. They look like a swimming team, and that’s kind of fun.”
Harrington has been swimming for four years competitively now and said his favorite event to swim was the 50-meter front crawl or freestyle because it’s short and quick.
“It feels like what swimming looks like on the Olympics,” Harrington said. “The real fast, high action, high adrenaline event. Not like the thousand where it’s slow and everyone just kind of looks at their phone.”
Harrington said swimming is kind of an in between sport when it comes to difficulty — some people think it is easier than it is, while other may think it is harder than it is.
“Swimming is not only an endurance sport, it’s also a very strength-oriented sport as well,” he said. “I feel that not a lot of people understand the competitive aspect, so I would love to see people come out and watch, even just a few races at a meet, and get a feel for what each of the different strokes feels like and the competitive scene of swimming.”