Rachel Nogard is a fourth year concurrent education student whose lifelong training in swimming is helping her claim key victories at meets around the OUA. Nogard has been on the team all four years of her time at Brock and is now the captain in her final year on the team.
The Hamilton native began swimming at the early age of seven with the Golden Horseshoe Aquatic Club which is run out of McMaster University. Nogard’s father was a decorated swimmer during his varsity career with the McMaster Marauders and she began following in his footsteps early on. Before university, Nogard qualified for and competed in Eastern Canadian Championships as well as Provincial Championships.
“Grade nine is really when I got competitive with swimming,” said Nogard. “In grade four I would practice four times a week but in high school it shot up to six, seven, eight, nine times. By Grade 12, it was consistently nine times a week.”
What most people may not realize about swimming is the intense dedication and commitment swimmers must make to their extremely demanding training programs. Nogard and the rest of the Brock team currently swim eight times a week. The majority of the in-pool practices take place Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. Three more practices take place in the afternoon throughout a typical week. During these practices the Brock swimmers are swimming a minimum of five kilometres. Additionally, all athletes must participate in two weight sessions, two runs and one dry land session every week.
“I wake up at 4:30 a.m. in the morning almost every day of the week. By noon you’ve been up for 7 hours and that’s a whole day for some people so I usually have three meals before some people wake up,” said Nogard.
All of this training is vital in order to be competitive in swimming continued Nogard. “We have to be fit in every way, we mainly swim to keep up our endurance but that’s just one element of being competitive. We do weights to build our muscles for more power in the water, for example. Swimming is the type of thing if you take two days off you feel it so we don’t take days off,” said Nogard
Every year she has been swimming for Brock, Nogard has made a run for the U Sports gold medal in the 200 butterfly event. In her rookie season, she was one of two to make it to the national university level from the Brock team and then she was the only swimmer to represent the Badgers the following year.
She has had the opportunity to see the team improve steadily during her athletic career. In the 2015/16 season, Nogard along with Jesse Maclean and Curtis Lee were the biggest cohort of Brock swimmers to make it to CIS in recent history for the relatively small sized program. This year four Brock swimmers are on pace to qualify for the national U Sports meet and continue the positive development of the team.
Coming into her rookie season, Nogard was swimming her main event, the 200 butterfly, at 2:23 but she qualified for CIS that same year with an impressive personal best performance of 2:15.02 when she clinched the bronze medal at OUA’s.
The Brock team, although smaller compared to swimming powerhouses like the University of Toronto, is known around the OUA circuit as a group who is passionate and hardworking.
“The team aspect [of swimming] is extremely important. If you know somebody else is getting up at 4:30 a.m. it gives you encouragement to get out of bed and head to the pool. If I showed up to jump into a freezing pool that early and there was no one there to do it with me I wouldn’t want to do it,” stated Nogard.
This growing commitment and dedication to a team dynamic practicing and encouraging one another was the motivating factor for the Brock team to travel to Tampa Bay, Florida over reading week to take part in an intensive training camp. As captain, Nogard is fostering a crucially important team dynamic that is beginning to pay dividends at meets. The weekend of January 20 Brock travelled to Toronto where Nogard picked up a gold medal finish for her main event.
“I was behind the whole race of the final heat, I was in second to third and fighting to get ahead,” she said. “It wasn’t until I got to the wall on the last lap that I was maybe half a second to a second behind. I had this moment where I decided to get ahead and I did eight dolphin kicks off the wall which pushed me really far underwater. When I came up I was half a body length ahead and I beat the other girls by a second.”
Nogard has won Most Valuable Player of the swim team twice and hopes to win once again in her final year with the team. She describes her experience with swimming as a love/hate relationship but cannot imagine a future where swimming isn’t in her life.
“The amount of time we put into this sport doesn’t always follow through [with success]. The ultimate goal is to look up at the scoreboard when you touch the wall and see a new best time. You’re training eight times a week for just two minutes that actually decide whether you win or lose,” said Nogard.
OUA’s for the swim team are held in Toronto this year and they run from February 9 to 11. Nogard and a few other Brock hopefuls will be heading to Sherbrooke University in Quebec for the U Sports Championship.