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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Coach boosts summer work

August 16, 2003

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After his first year as Kansas University's swimming coach, Clark Campbell's biggest achievement for his alma mater might have taken place this summer at the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center.

Campbell was still coaching several Jayhawks with the Lawrence Aquahawks.

"Summer is the best opportunity to get better," Campbell said. "And, like all other sports, swimming has become a year-round thing."

With NCAA rules now allowing college coaches to work with club teams, it makes sense that nearly a dozen KU swimmers stayed in Lawrence this summer.

And, if they need any more motivation, junior Amy Gruber is a great example of how practice makes perfect.

Last season, after Gruber swam in the summer, she ended the college season by qualifying for the 50 freestyle at the NCAA Championships.

"She had an excellent summer a year ago by going to Senior Nationals, and it became a launching pad for her college career," Campbell said. "Amy's example serves as motivation for training in the summer and such training definitely has my stamp of approval."

Campbell has recruited several in-state swimmers with club backgrounds.

Four standouts

Four of the 12 signees -- Kristi Hansen of Shawnee Mission, Kristen Tirabassi and Emily Knopp of Wichita, and Jenny Short of Olathe -- have shined in both high school and club swimming.

"That's very important," said Campbell.

The swimming program at KU took a big hit when the men's team was dissolved two years ago.

"I think I've been fortunate with that decision I wasn't here," said Campbell, who graduated from KU in 1993. "It does hit home because I was a swimmer here.

"But my job is to make the swimming team the best possible team it can be now, and not worry about the past. If there comes a day where men's swimming can return, that would be great. But for me personally, it has made my transition easier to just have to focus on just one team."

Campbell said he understood the pain the former KU men's swimmers had experienced by having the program cut.

"It never goes away. I°t always lingers," Campbell said. "But with just the one team, I don't have to focus on the coed situation. And there is a difference in coaching men and women.

"You coach different, you motivate differently, and focus energy in a different way."

Rapid turnover

Campbell is also the Jayhawks' third coach in the last four years.

"Anytime there's transition, both athletes and the coach have to get used to each other," he said. "We were fortunate that the team bought into it wholeheartedly and we had a tremendous first season."

Like taking part in the Nike Cup in November and a fourth-place finish at the Big 12 Conference Championships in February.

"Both those events were tremendous highlights," Campbell said. "If you're getting 75 percent of your athletes that are putting up lifetime bests, that's a great meet.

"I think those two events, competing against the best teams in the country at the Nike Cup and moving up in the Big 12 Championships are just a foreshadow of the things to come."

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