Higgins | A look inside Penn swimming's roadtrip


Every year during the first week of December, the Penn men’s and women’s swim teams embark on cross-country trek to Kenyon College, the alma mater of assistant coach Marc Christian, to attend the Total Performance Invitational. Awaiting the teams in Gambier, Ohio, is fast competition from seven Division III programs.

Before the teams’ bus pulls into the Holiday Inn parking lot in Ohio, however, they must endure eight (and sometimes nine) hours of traveling through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains and the sleep-inducing landscape of Ohio’s monotonous expanses of cornfields.

Usually by this point in the season, both the men’s and women’s teams have already survived a handful of long bus rides, such as the five hours to UConn or the four hours to Cornell. But this season, neither the men’s nor women’s team has travelled more than one hour away by bus. The 13 freshman competing in this weekend’s meet didn’t know what they were getting themselves into.

Here is a timeline of events for this year's bus trip.

1:10 The bus pulls out onto Walnut Street with all 52 swimmers and 3 coaches situated aboard.

1:16 Machete Kills comes onto the bus’s TV monitors. Coach Mike Schnur is practically giggling in anticipation. Meanwhile, a collective groan is heard from most of the women’s team. Women’s team captain Lauryn Brown yells, “It’s a man’s world!”

1:28 Sofia Vergara’s name rolls across the screen during the opening credits. Several members of the men’s team cheer.

2:59 Applause breaks out throughout the bus when the movie ends. The men’s team claps to express their satisfaction with the movie; the women’s team claps out of relief that they won’t have to sit through any more gratuitous killing.

3:01 Not even two minutes have passed before the next movie, Vision Quest, is playing from the TV monitors.

4:47 The team pulls into a rest stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania for a quick bathroom and stretch break. Only four hours to go!

5:00 Chaos ensues when the coaches begin distributing Jimmy Johns lunch boxes. Apparently the cookies inside the boxes are problematic: no one wants to get stuck with oatmeal raisin when chocolate chip is on the line. “Oatmeal raisin is cruel and unusual punishment,” says senior Emily Ashton.

5:28 22 Jump Street begins playing; a calm falls over the bus. It is unclear if the quiet is due to the movie or the fact that everyone is busy eating.

7:00 PMWSD crosses through West Virginia into Ohio, the third and final state of the road trip. Only two more hours until Gambier, Ohio.

7:22 As the credits of 22 Jump Street roll, one of the coaches requests to turn on the Air Conditioning. Bad move.

7:45 Things start getting weird. The team is entering its seventh hour on the bus and in the back of the bus there are three swimmers to most seats. In the last twenty minutes, the temperature on the bus has dropped at least five degrees. People start pulling on their winter coats.

8:12 Junior Meaghan Kwarcinski enters page five (single-spaced) of the paper she has been writing for the duration of the bus trip.

8:24 Phone service goes out. We must be getting close to our destination.

8:35 The bus unexpectedly swerves. Someone yells “turn up!”

9:15 The last forty minutes of the ride seem to take as long as the previous seven hours aboard the bus. That might be the delirium kicking in. By 9:15, the bus pulls into the Holiday Inn parking lot.

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