The St. Thomas swimming and diving teams began its season with a splash Friday, Oct. 28, with the St. Thomas Relays held in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex pool.
The Tommie men’s and women’s swimming teams pooled together to win two relay victories overall in both the men’s 200 freestyle relay and the women’s 400 freestyle relay, as well as recording 12 runner-up finishes out of 17 races.
Sophomore diver Nick Johnson won both the 1-meter and 3-meter competitions held at Macalester.
St. Thomas swimming coach Tom Hodgson said he was blown away by his teams’ performances.
“I feel like we’re just way ahead of last year’s team, which was one of the best teams we’ve had,” Hodgson said. “I think we’ll be in contention for championships for sure. A lot can happen between now and then, we’re just a month in, but I’m pretty optimistic.”
Sophomore swimmer Hayley Trace was also pleased with the teams’ results.
“I had times on Friday that I was doing in January last year and that was with three months of training, and we’ve only had a month’s worth,” Trace said. “I surprised myself with how fast I went and seeing that the whole team did that was kind of exciting.”
After the men’s swim team finished second place in the MIAC last year behind St. Olaf and the women finished fourth, both teams set high goals this year, including capturing MIAC titles.
“I think everyone’s goal is to do well and make it to nationals. Last year our relay was the first to get cut in making it to nationals,” senior All-American Sam Rauchwarter said. “This year I hope that we can definitely qualify a relay and get a bunch of people going.”
Assistant swimming coach Elise Knoche said if the team puts in 100 percent effort this season, the results will show at the conference meet. This season, Knoche introduced a new weight-lifting program she created for the swimmers to help them reach this goal.
“As we progress throughout the season, the weightlifting program will complement what we do in the pool and together we’re just going to build muscular strength, and in the pool we work on becoming efficient,” Knoche said. “Hopefully there will be huge drops of time at the end of the season.”
Blanchard joins coaching staff
The addition of assistant coach Scott Blanchard could contribute to the Tommie’s success in the pool.
Trace said Blanchard’s help will allow more eyes to be on the swimmers during practices and meets, while also bringing a different perspective to the team.
“He doesn’t really have the background of seeing you swim at a million different meets knowing your typical habits,” Trace said. “If he can call you out on something that your doing wrong, you know it’s really obvious if he can see it.”
Blanchard said he was excited to join the swimming family.
The men’s team returns All-Americans Rauchwarter and junior Michael Hoelterhoff and three-time defending conference champion in the 100 butterfly, senior Erik Huls. Joining the Tommie men this year are freshmen standouts Nathan France and Brian Huls.
“I think all the freshmen coming in will definitely fill the void and go beyond what we graduated last year,” Rauchwarter said.
On the women’s side, top returners include junior Katie Bromback, who finished third in the 100 and 200 butterfly at last year’s MIAC meet, senior Sam Simon, and sophomores Trace and Erin Windschitl, who were voted Most Improved last season.
“There’s just a real array of talent, both returning and incoming, that’s just really got us really optimistic,” Hodgson said.
The Tommies’ biggest competition this year will come from St. Olaf on the men’s side and St. Olaf and Gustavus on the women’s side. Hodgson called these teams the MIAC’s “perennial powers.”
The men will compete against Macalester Saturday in the AARC, while the women travel to Moorhead to face off against Macalester and Concordia-Moorhead.
The St. Thomas men’s and women’s diving teams are also looking build on its successful start.
Last year the men took third in the MIAC. Top returning diver, sophomore Nick Johnson, hopes to see the Tommie men take the top three positions at the MIAC meet. With a more experienced team, Johnson feels diving coach Mark Dusbabek will be a big factor in achieving that goal.
“This year (Dusbabek) knows all of us…very well, so I expect he’ll make our diving excel even more with his coaching strategies,” Johnson said. “It’s already been fairly apparent because I’m already doing better than my high scores of last year.”
On the women’s side, returning All-American senior Jennifer Easton beat her personal and school record at the Tommie Relays. After being St. Thomas’ only female diver last year, Easton is joined by freshman diver Katie Becker.
“Katie is great. She’s such a great addition to the team. She brings a fun, positive attitude and is willing to try stuff,” Easton said. “I was terrified of 3-meter and for her to be able to get up there and just try dives, that’s very impressive.”
Big competition for the women divers this year will include St. Katherine’s and Macalester.
Briggs LeSavage can be reached at Lesa4364@stthomas.edu.