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   Date: 12/1/10 Bookmark and Share

Taking on the Channel

By Lily Samuels ’11

Sophomores Mackenzie Bradley and Emma Reim love to swim.

Both are competitors on the Smith swim team and they are each other’s training partners.

Emma Reim ’13 (on left) and Mackenzie Bradley ’13 in their element.

The pair’s love of swimming will be put to the test next August when they set out to swim across the English Channel.

Yes, that English Channel: 21 miles across the Strait of Dover, from Dover, England, to Calais, France. Twelve hours of straight swimming in choppy, 60-degree water, through one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The bold idea was born at Smith.

“During a practice last year, our coach started telling us stories about the two swimmers he had coached to swim the Channel in 1984,” remembers Bradley of Kim Bierwert, head coach of swimming and diving.

“As he was talking, I couldn’t help but think: ‘this would be doable,’” adds Reim. “So after our conference meet, we walked up to him and told him we needed to talk. He already knew.”

The dramatic nature of the feat is what drew the two women initially. “I want to be one of the few who have done this,” explains Bradley, a 13-year swimmer. “Plus, it’s ideal as a way to push ourselves as swimmers. We’ve both been doing this a long time, and it’s just a whole different level of swimming.”

As with many challenging undertakings, obstacles abound. “Honestly, swimming is not that entertaining on its own,” admits Bradley. “We’re going to have to find ways to keep ourselves focused for over 10 hours. That’s a long time to have to remain actively conscious of making times and keeping pace.”

Bradley and Reim, who has swam for seven years, will begin their formal training for the Channel swim a week after swimming season ends, in March 2011. They plan to work up to swimming more than 30,000 yards (about 17 miles) per day.

Challenges notwithstanding, the women are confident. “Simply put, we are fast enough,” says Reim. “I know we can do it.”

“We’re both designed to swim long-distance,” notes Bradley. “We can just keep going.”

Most important to the duo is the encouragement from their communities, both at home and at Smith. “It’s the support that keeps me sure that we can do it,” reflects Reim. “My mom, without any real knowledge of the technical side of swimming, gave me her full support, trusting in my drive as a swimmer.”

“The enthusiasm from our coach and our teammates is so important,” says Bradley. “It keeps us excited.”

The swimmers recognize that their Channel swim will be among the events that define their lives. “I know that it will permanently change how I look at the interconnectedness of physical and mental challenges,” says Reim.

“It will be one of the biggest accomplishments of my life,” adds Bradley.

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