Most of the Pioneers swimmers move on to Division I programs. With this in mind, Ip insists upon both mandatory study halls and grueling workouts. "My goal is to treat this program in all aspects like a top Division I program, so the athletes are used to that type of training and to the demands on them academically," the coach says. "Four-year schools can say, 'I know what I'm going to get from Indian River. I'm going to get a solid student who can handle everything.' "
Indian River coaches also have been recruited by big schools. Richard Bader coached the Pioneers from 1986 to '89, then was hired to coach Michigan State. Former Indian River assistant Dan Colella is now the women's coach at Tennessee. Auburn coach Dave Marsh did not coach at Indian River, but he did swim there from 1976 to '78.
Ip took over at Indian River after three years as the head coach at Delaware. A former freestyler and breastroker, Ip trained throughout high school and college with the now infamous Foxcatcher swim team, sponsored by John du Pont. Ip was a Division II All-America at East Stroudsburg (Pa.) State College, and he started coaching upon his graduation in '78, first as an assistant at his alma mater, then as an assistant at Brown before his tenure at Delaware. In Ip's seven years at the River, his teams have lost only four dual meets.
One of the men's losses came in February to Broward Community College, the only other Florida junior college with a swimming program. Broward provides tough competition for the Pioneers during the season, but at the national championships, Indian River's depth gives it the advantage. Schools are allowed to take 18 men and 18 women to the nationals, but few juco teams can muster that many swimmers. Indian River, which has 15 men and 15 women on swimming scholarships, has to leave athletes home.
The team tradition includes a highly prized icon: an airbrushed T-shirt that former Pioneers assistant Reid Lewis, who competed on the school's first and second teams, had made for himself in 1980. The lettering on the T-shirt reads THE RIVER FLOWS. "Everybody on the team asked me for that shirt, and there was no way I was going to give it away," Lewis says. But at the '80 national championship in Rochester, N.Y., Indian River freshman Bucky Duke set a school record in winning the men's 100 butterfly. During the postmeet celebration, Lewis took off the shirt and said to Duke, "Here, you can have this. Give it to someone else next year."
The once bright-yellow garment is now a dingy beige. Out of respect for its age, it is no longer worn. "I've put it on for pictures and taken it home a few times, but I don't want to lose it or ruin it," says Olafson, holder of the shirt during the 1995-96 school year. "It's a little fragile." At a team banquet the night after the River won this year's national titles, Olafson passed the shirt on to Bock.
Lewis is also credited with another of the River's traditions. One of the most popular cheers passed down over the years is called the Pioneer Boogaloo. Lewis learned a version of it during the two years he swam at Kent State after graduating from Indian River. It was part of the Pioneers' celebration in Fort Lauderdale this spring. The victorious athletes chanted:
We're No. 1,
Can't be No. 2,
Come on, everybody,
Do the Pioneer Boogaloo.
Then the swimmers and their coaches danced. They danced very well.