Jenn Blomme has spent the past decade transforming Whitman’s swim program into a Northwest Conference powerhouse. However, the Walla Walla native teaches her athletes to do more than swim. She proves to them that limits are self-imposed.
They wake up while it’s still dark, trudge through the winter weather to jump into a cold pool and swim up to 7,000 yards. That’s nearly four miles. Come the afternoon, after classes, it’s back to the pool for another practice, and then they hit the gym for dry-land weight training. No pain, no gain.
Blomme’s swimmers must love the pain, because they have gained remarkable success since she took over the program in 2000 and turned it into a perennial conference contender while winning NWC coach of the year on six different occasions.
But are these athletes, doing two-a-days, sadists?
“Everyone’s answer to that question might be a little different,” Blomme said. “But it’s an unbelievably cool feeling to immerse yourself in water, a medium the human body wasn’t necessarily meant to traverse, and be able to move with power and grace.”
For Blomme, coaching is all about helping her swimmers get to that next level. She says she can’t motivate her swimmers; she can only inspire them to challenge themselves.
“You’re in that race. You might feel great or horrible, but you get to that wall, look at the clock and you surpass what you thought you were capable of. All of a sudden your perception of your limits are completely changed. In swimming, we strive to get to that moment. And we celebrate it.”
Swimmers push their limits academically, too. In 2011, not only did the men’s swim team have the highest GPA in NCAA Division III at 3.55, but that figure was higher than all schools in NCAA Division I and higher than all but one school in Division II.
“The environment we’ve been able to create at practice and swim meets is keeping the possibility alive that our limits are self-imposed.”
- Named NWC Coach of the Year six times.
- Coached the men to an undefeated season in NWC dual meets (7-0) for the first time in school history in 2013.
- Men placed 17th at NCAA Nationals in 2013, their highest finish ever.