FSU assistant coach completes Appalachian Trail

Fredonia men’s swimming & diving alumnus Rob Sweeny reached Mount Kitahdin, Maine, on Aug. 19 to complete a 2,100-mile trek of the Appalachian Trail.

An assistant coach with the current swimming & diving teams, Sweeny began his quest from Springer Mountain, Ga., southwest of Atlanta, on March 13. He reached Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., on June 8, where he exchanged his hiking boots for a new pair for the northern half of the trip. He also chose to wear a kilt during the journey.

Blue Devil assistant coach John Crawford and team photographer Jim Fitzgerald meet up with Sweeny and his hiking companion, Jacob Jones, a New York University student from Eagan, Minn., at the Blackburn (W.Va.) Trail Center on their way to Harper’s Ferry, which is the ceremonial halfway point along the Appalachian Trail for thru-hikers.

Hikers along the Trail adopt nicknames, or are given them by other hikers, and Sweeny was no exception. Known as “Snarf” by other members of the Fredonia swimming & diving program, he was “Bacon Dog” along the Trail for once saying he would like to eat a hot dog made of bacon. Jones, a Theater Arts major at NYU, went by “Shakes” – a reference to the playwright William Shakespeare. Neither man knew the other’s real name until they were 500 miles into their trek.

In an interview they gave while in Harper’s Ferry, “Bacon Dog” and “Shakes” spoke of Trail Magic – random acts of kindness performed by others in the manner of food, drink, rides into town, transferring some of the back pack items to the next location on the journey, etc. – and spoke of some of the hardships they had faced along the way.

Sweeny said his worst moment, to that point, was the snowstorm they encountered while hiking up Big Bald Mountain, a peak of 5,516 feet near Irwin, Tenn. He said he constantly had to filter his water and had seen a few rattlers but more bears along the Trail. He said he constantly had to check for tics, especially in his beard.

He said the best moment then was “watching spring happen” as he traveled north, including the gradual emergence of a green tunnel of foliage through which they hiked.

Crawford found irony in the fact Sweeny, a freestyle sprinter for the Blue Devils and a Fredonia High School graduate, chose to attempt a long-distance overland trek which lasted six months.

“Despite consuming a great amount of calories daily,” Crawford reported in June, “(Sweeny) has lost weight presently weighing 168 pounds. His physique has also changed with the activity. He no longer sports that large chest typical of most sprint freestylers.”