Every year in December you can tune in and watch one of the biggest sports rivalries there is – the Army/Navy football game. There’s no doubt this is a special event – often called “America’s Game” as future soldiers and sailors come together on the football field to fight for their own slice of eternal glory and the coveted Commander in Chief’s trophy. When I was at Navy, we were in the middle of what turned into a 14 year long winning streak. Saturday is a big day in sports.
Even though football gets the limelight, every varsity athlete at the Academy competes in an Army/Navy match up, often going unrecognized by the sports world at large. The truth is that there is another much less known team on the yard in Annapolis that happens to have the longest running “Beat Army” streak of all the sports teams at Navy: Swimming & Diving.
Although the men’s and women’s teams operate separately, together they boast the longest and second longest number of years in a row of beating Army. This year, the women’s team is heading for win #31, the men, #29. A mind-blowing combined 60 years of dominance over Army. But no one gets to watch this match up on TV, so no one hears about it. I think we should change that, for swimming & diving and all the other sports on the yard that play/swim their hearts out each year.
My years on the Navy Women’s Swim Team were winning years 16-19 over Army. Although Army had some good competition, our team had more depth. We never really felt like we were in jeopardy of losing – but that didn’t stop it from being the most nerve wracking 2-3 hours of my swimming career each year. We swam like it was anyone’s win. The pressure a Navy athlete feels to beat Army is really indescribable. You aren’t just winning for your individual team, you’re winning for your school, and for the Fleet. I’ve met a lot of really die hard sports fans in my day (I’m from Pittsburgh, Steelers fans burn couches in the street), but I really don’t think there’s any greater rivalry than Army/Navy out there. When you win, you have this feeling that news of the win is going to reach the likes of ships and sailors deployed overseas, “retired” Navy athletes that started the streak you’re carrying on, and alumni and fans everywhere. Knowing you are bringing good news and a moral boost for those out there serving is a really proud moment.
So here’s a shout out to Navy Swimming & Diving on the eve of the biggest meet of the year (bigger than league championships, IMHO): When you race tomorrow, remember that you are part of something bigger than yourself. Everyone around the Fleet is feeling the pride of your race and your win (be it personal or team) and cheering you along. Navy fans and alumni everywhere are rooting for you, whether or not they’ve ever even stepped foot on a pool deck. The venue doesn’t matter, just the spirit and fight you bring when you compete.
To my Navy S’women ladies specifically – a special shout out for being the PRIDE of the yard. Keep that long running streak alive! You are all so fast and so talented these days – I don’t think I’d even make the team if I swam 2019! Go get ’em.
My only regret is that my mom and I got rid of the N-star cookie cutter she had specially welded by the shop teacher at her school. RIP N* cookies. We should have passed it on to future Navy swimming moms.
Best of luck tomorrow to the Navy Swimming and Diving Teams – go earn your N-stars.
If you want to watch and listen this great event (you should) – check out how you can live stream and listen in here. If nothing else, you get to listen to Olympic ledge Rowdy Gaines announce the meet.
GO NAVY – BEAT ARMY!!