Mizzou Swimmers Innovate Backstroke Start At NCAA's

Thursday night in the consolation final of the 400 medley relay at the NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championships, the eight backstrokers jumped into the water. All the girls grabbed the backstroke bars and placed their feet, all but one.

From lane four, Nadine Laemmler of the University of Missouri reached a little higher than the girls on either side of her. She placed her hands on the white plastic edges of the starting block.

At the starter's cue Laemmler rose higher than her counterparts, coming almost entirely out of the pool. She then rocketed herself backward and to her fastest time ever. Laemmler swam the second fastest time in the field, 50.54 seconds, setting a University of Missouri record.

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The University of Missouri brought a strong core of backstrokers to NCAA's and they are all adapting to the IUPUI natatorium and changing the way they do their backstroke start.

Haley Hynes, a freshman at Missori, was the first girl to make the switch.

Hynes and her coach Greg Rhodenbaugh decided on this new form on Wednesday, the day the meet started.

While practicing starts Hynes mentioned she felt crunched, and too small using the handles. Rhodenbaugh suggests Hynes just grab the block instead. Her immediate reaction to his suggestion was skeptical.

"I was like what I'm not doing that." Hynes said. "That's insane."

A change of heart came almost immediately, though. After just one practice start, Hynes felt the difference.

"It feels great. I am able to extend so much faster and have so much room. " Hynes said. "I just fly off."

The new technique has been met with relative early success. Friday, in the 100 back finals, both Laemmler and teammate Hannah Stevens used the new start and finished seventh and third respectively. Saturday, in the 200 backstroke, the girls again used the technique and Laemmler finished in ninth and Stevens in eleventh.

The change has not gone unnoticed from other teams. The Missouri girls can hear murmurs of confusion and interest every time they forgo the traditional bars. They are still the only ones using the start as of now, but with convincing early success, others may soon try it.

By Anthony Ashley


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