Connecticut College Magazine · Summer 2012


Former Dean of the College Jewel Plummer Cobb with Beverly Clark Prince '72 in Cobb's lab at Connecticut College. Photo courtesy of the Linda Lear Center for Special Collections and Archives.

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Going the distance

Going the distance

In 10 seasons as coach, Benvenuti has built a swim program with muscle

by Will Tomasian

In 2002, before Marc Benvenuti jumped in as head coach of the Connecticut College swimming and diving teams, the men placed last in the NESCAC championship.

Fast forward to this year's conference finals. Over three days in February, Tim Walsh '12 swept the backstroke events; Sam Gill '14 broke records in the 100 butterfly; and the quartet of Walsh, Gill, Kirk Czelewicz '15 and Patrick McGinnis '15 won the 200-yard medley relay.

Overall, the Camels placed fourth in the 11-team field — a testament to the athletes but also to their coach, who works tirelessly, on- and off-season, to build the best team he can.

“He's always working with you,” says Walsh, a computer science and economics double major from Lincoln Park, N.J. “He's paying attention to every detail in practice.”

Gill, of Springfield, Ill., first met Benvenuti at a sprint camp in Ohio. He accepted the coach's invitation to visit campus and found the perfect place to excel academically and athletically.

“I was just blown away by all the detail in his preparation with his recruiting packet,” says Gill, a double major in economics and history. “The statistics, the progression, the past swimmers, alumni — seeing all of that put together was very impressive.”

Benvenuti, who also coaches the women's team, looks beyond the numbers when he's scouting.

“The times for recruits are important,” he says, “but we put a little less stock in what their high-school times are. I am more interested in what their level of motivation is.”

Katie Karlson '13, a 2011 All-American breaststroker from Wayland, Mass., says Benvenuti “looks for people that have that unpolished, raw talent” and who “fit in the team.”

Though Benvenuti holds open tryouts, he recruits most of his swimmers and rarely fills his rosters. NESCAC allows up to 24 swimmers on a team, but this year the men and women each had just 19.

“I'd rather have the right 19 (athletes) than have the full 24,” he says.

Benvenuti knows what it takes to be a successful NESCAC student-athlete. A five-time All-American at Tufts University, where he majored in biology and environmental studies, he understands and accommodates his swimmers' academic priorities. He's coached dozens of student-athletes who were named to the NESCAC All-Academic Team, a distinction that requires a GPA of at least 3.35.

But life as a Camel swimmer isn't a day at the beach. “Our kids will swim 90,000 yards in a week,” Benvenuti says — more than 7 miles a day. Early-morning practices and an annual three-week conditioning trip in Naples, Fla., over winter break foster team chemistry and prepare the squads for the grueling demands of the championship season.

The hard work is paying off. The teams have cracked the top 20 in the nation in three of the past four years. In the past two seasons, 12 Camels qualified for nationals, and 21 All-America swims were attained. Benvenuti, meanwhile, was honored as NESCAC Coach of the Year three times in six years.

“We just keep getting better every year,” Benvenuti says. “We are headed towards the top and we'll continue to work harder to get there.”

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