The men's and women's swimming teams may have had their best overall performance of the year this past weekend at the Grinnell Invite, with four swimmers recording first-place finishes and two school records falling. Yet they had trouble seriously competing in the team standings because of an inability to fill all of the events.
The swimming teams combined last week to finish in second place at the Knox Invite, providing a strong first step for the teams to build off of after the long winter break. At the Grinnell Invite, however, the men's team finished in eighth place out of 11 teams, and the women finished fifth out of 11. The swimmers knew that each of the competitions after the break would get increasingly difficult, culminating in the UAA Championships in mid-February.
"The difference in our placement in the two meets had to do with the competition. Although we ended up swimming even faster at Grinnell than we did at Knox, the competition this past weekend was much tougher," third-year Emma Eriksson said.
Eriksson continued her strong performance in the pool with her second straight week taking top honors in the 100-yard backstroke (1:03.14), breaking her own school record by .13 seconds. She also broke the school and meet record with her 200-yard backstroke run (2:15.72). Second-year Emily Testa also had her second straight first place performance with her 200-yard individual medley time of 2:17.47. Testa also recorded first place runs in the 200-yard backstroke (2:33.69) and 200-yard freestyle (2:01.58).
For the men, third-year Joe Nagy and first-year Dan Timke received individual titles for the second week in a row. Nagy won the 100-yard breaststroke (1:00.76), bettering last week's time by .97 seconds. Timke placed first in the 500-yard freestyle, the longest individual event, with a time of 4:54.13.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the men's and women's teams finished near the middle of the pack is their small team sizes. The two teams have a combined total of 12 swimmers active. "Many of the teams at Grinnell had over 40 swimmers entered in the meet, whereas we had much [fewer]. Teams were able to score many more points, and the teams with more entries had a big advantage. We ended up winning several events, but we lacked the depth to score enough to finish on top overall," Eriksson said.
In addition to the winning times, Eriksson recorded second place in the 200-yard freestyle (2:01.69), and Testa finished second in the 400-yard individual medley (4:52.00). Nagy was runner-up in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:16.04), and Timke swam a second place run in the 200-yard freestyle (1:49.18) and a third place run in the 200-yard butterfly (2:04.29).
This week, the team has been looking forward to a tri-meet in Wheaton, Illinois against Wheaton College and Carthage College. The swim teams got a good look at Carthage at the Grinnell invite, where their men's team finished second with a total of 568 points and their women's team scored 384. The University of Chicago teams scored 175 and 351 points, respectively.
"The Carthage swimmers were a bunch of really nice kids, and we are looking forward to racing them again," Eriksson said. "Wheaton is a very strong team. They place in the top 10 at nationals each year. While the competition will be fierce, it will be a good opportunity for us to get in some last minute races before UAA's."
The only other time this season the swimming teams have competed in a tri-meet was November 15 against Illinois Tech and Loras College. The men finished third, and the women finished second in that meet.
The swimmers all seem to feel that they are ready for the challenges facing them in the upcoming weeks, knowing that factors like team size may put them at a disadvantage but that they need to perform at a top level with the things they can control. For the men's and women's swim teams, who only have one senior set to graduate between them, this year is not the last step. The wheels are just being set into motion.