Written by Chris Pence
Swimming is hard; at least it always has been for me. It’s a type of exercise that most athletes aren’t used to, let alone adept at. That’s certainly not the case for Randolph-Macon senior Robert Redenz, who excels in an activity that I have been content to emulate man’s best friend in for most of my life. A nearby Moseley, Virginia native, Redenz took to swimming young through local summer leagues and then entered the world of competitive swimming in middle school. Although the Yellow Jackets’ season is relatively short, swimming has been a full-time gig for the past eight years of Redenz’s life who knows how important that has been to his development.
“So our season is only 19 weeks but you have to train year round if you want to improve.”
Redenz is no stranger to improvement as that has been the hallmark of his career as a Yellow Jacket. His fourth and final season is shaping up to be his best one yet. Redenz’s 2016-17 season at a glance looks like this: four-time Men’s ODAC Swimmer of the Week, three-time Conference Swimmer of the Week by CollegeSwimming.com, 17 individual first-place finishes, and contributed to five relay first-place finishes. He’s not so concerned with those accolades right now and certainly isn’t counting. Redenz is just relishing his last year competing and his role on the team this year, “being my last year the team has really supported me in trying to do my best,” he said. One of two seniors on the team, along with fellow stalwart and 2016 ODAC Scholar-Athlete of the Year Josh Carter, Redenz attributes his success this year to his responsibilities as one of the team captains and the support he has received from his teammates.
Redenz will swim in the 100-meter breaststroke, 200-meter individual medley, 200-meter breaststroke, and four relays (he’s not sure which ones yet) in this weekend’s ODAC Championship. Redenz didn’t seem too nervous about the big weekend, but then again he’s no real stranger to these types of events. Having swam under the auspices of U.S. Swimming during his club days he also had the chance to compete in the International Children’s Games in Bahrain in high school.
Swimming as a spectator sport seems to garner national attention for a few months only every four years when the Olympics come around. It’s no surprise that the year-round swimmer Redenz thinks it deserves more.
“I think college swimming can almost be as exciting as the Olympics; a lot of us have friends from our club teams who swim at bigger D-1 schools who may be up-and-coming Olympic competitors,” he said. Redenz laments the spike in attention the sport receives every four years and stressed that for swimmers it’s definitely something they pay attention to year round.
Swimming is one of the few sports that take place in an entirely different environment. One in that humans aren’t accustomed to and certainly weren’t designed to thrive in. I was told by a friend and life-long swimmer that the hardest part about training, no matter how long you’ve been doing it, is jumping into that water the first time each practice. Redenz agreed with that statement. “It is really hard to find that motivation to get in the pool on those early mornings,” he said reflecting, “but it’s something you’ve grown up with and love to do so you just keep doing it.” It’s pretty clear to see why Redenz would like to see more attention paid to swimming. He just has that passion that any other athlete has for their sport.
It’s also clear his motivation in athletics carries over to his academics. A standout Biology and Chemistry student, Redenz will be entering VCU’s School of Dentistry next fall. Jokingly, I asked if he saw any parallels with swimming and dentistry, but surprisingly enough he had a serious answer. “There’s a lot of perfectionism in both; in swimming we strive for perfection in our strokes, turns, times and I think there’s a lot of that same perfectionism in dentistry.” I would certainly want to hear those words from my dentist; Redenz seems well on his way to his own general practice.
Redenz, along with the rest of the men’s and women’s teams, will be seeking some of that same perfection as they compete in the ODAC Championships this weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina. Redenz, who has broken some of his own records this season, is shooting for cuts to the NCAA Championships but also feels really good about his team’s overall chances. “A lot of people want to break some records, we have some really fast freshman guys and girls so I think both teams have the potential to make a big impact this weekend.”