ITHACA, NY -- Swimmers don't wear hats, but if they did, Tim Hector of the Ithaca College swim team would wear several. The 2017 Ithaca High graduate is primarily a backstroker, but he jumps in to help out (good metaphor) if the team needs him for sprints, freestyle or butterfly.
Hector is a tri-captain for the Bombers, and he earned that designation not because he is a senior, but because he has made big contributions over the years. During the 2019-20 season —the Bombers' last real season before the pandemic — Tim was part of the winning 200 medley relay team at the Liberty League Championship which won in 1:31.89, setting a new meet record. He was also on the winning 200 freestyle relay team and the winning 400 medley relay team which won in 3:21.55, setting a new meet, conference and school record. His list of accomplishments is a long one, but you get the point — he earned that title of tri-captain.
Any college athlete will tell you that there are some adjustments to be made when going from the high school to the collegiate level, and in Hector's words, “I think the biggest difference is that in high school, you have some kids come out for teams to have fun, to spend time with their friends. In college, you still want to have fun, but there's a bigger focus on becoming the best athlete you can possibly be.”
He continued, “There is what I would call an amplification of the desire to do well in the classroom and in the pool. I feel obligated to learn the skills of time management, I know how important it is to carry those skills forward and I think being a college athlete is a good way to do that.”
Hector was a part of a swimming dynasty of sorts while at Ithaca High, and the Little Red never lost a dual meet during his time there. He developed a strong relationship with his head coach, Mike Blakely-Armitage, and he was happy to hear that his high school coach would be following him to South Hill (as an assistant coach). In Tim's words, “It was an interesting turn of events to have him coach me again, starting in my sophomore year. Having that established connection makes it easier to work together.”
Blakely-Armitage was well aware of what he was getting into when he joined the Bomber coaching staff, as he is an insider by any measure. As an undergrad at Ithaca College (class of 2000) Mike was on the swim team and immediately moved into an assistant coaching position, maintaining that position until 2004. During his time as an assistant, the men's swimming and diving team won its first conference championship in 2001 and went on to win two more while he was on the staff.
I asked Mike about the changes he has seen over two decades, and he said, “The training elements are so much more advanced, and the kids are a lot faster.” Asked how his own times would stack up now, Mike laughed and said, “I was a decent D-III swimmer, and I was one of the top 10 point scorers for the team, but I wouldn't even make the travel squad now.”
From a coaching standpoint, Blakely-Armitage said, “The ways we communicate now are so much different. We use texting, we use apps, we have always said that we are available to our athletes at all times, and I'll tell you, with phones at everyone's fingertips, that's the real deal.” He added, “It's mostly a good thing, but I am conscious of the fact that we still need to teach them to figure things out on their own.
“When I was first coaching, we made phone calls, hoping we could reach the recruits, but more often than not we left messages on answering machines. We used snail mail, we sent letters... To be honest, I don't know how we did it.”
The Bombers' 2021-22 season is just getting underway, and Blakely-Armitage told me, “We definitely have targets on our backs in the Liberty League, and we are heading to RPI, where the men are hoping to snap a losing streak. I think the women will edge them, but it should be close.”