The Lawrence University Swimming and Diving Team took second at the Wisconsin Private College Championships, hosted by LU on Jan. 27.
Though the day was witness to a number of Carthage sweeps leading the Redmen and Lady Reds to the top spot, Lawrence held it together and both men’s and women’s teams beat out Carroll, St. Norbert, Ripon, Beloit and Marquette for second place.
The women’s mile was the first notable event of the day with sophomore Hayley Vatch swimming a tough race against St. Norbert. Holding a slim five-yard lead through most of the event, Vatch kept ahead and beat out SNC by .7 second.
The men’s mile also featured a difficult battle. Kyle Griffin, despite beating his season best by nearly nine seconds, faced incredibly tough competition from Carroll and the sophomore ended as runner-up.
Chrissie Nelson, a sophomore, had an excellent swim in the 200 freestyle, making the top three in a competitive event. LU added three more to the top eight in Vatch, sophomore Mandy Schlais and freshman Emily Mohr.
Both men’s and women’s 50 free were a tooth-and-nail battle to place. On the women’s side, Carthage claimed five out of eight top spots, though LU got in a jab with sophomore Sam Szynskie’s seventh-place finish.
“Sam Szynskie performed outstanding,” said senior Meredith Claycomb said. “She should really step it up for the sprinters.”
A no less competitive men’s race saw freshman Brett Cox and sophomore Taylor Brengel squeak in for points at sixth and seventh, Brengel at a season best.
By the time the women’s 500 rolled around, LU distance was confident and knew they were in their element. The dynamic duo of Vatch and freshman Julia Ziege, along with junior Jenni Hair, have consistently been at the top of the MWC in the distance events, and didn’t disappoint this time around.
With a tight race through the first 100, LU began to break away from the pack and by the 300 mark the most exciting part of the race was between Ziege and Vatch for the win. Ziege touched out Vatch by .07 second at the end, making it one of the most intense competitions of the meet.
Brengel also impressed with winning performances in the 100 and 200 backstroke, both times beating out a sea of Carthage red and garnering a season-best time in the 100.
Men’s and women’s diving also shone Saturday. “Marissa Vallette had a lifetime best diving performance on 1-meter,” Coach Kurt Kirner said.
The junior took first in both 1-meter and 3-meter. First-year diver Steve Schnorr also won both diving events for the men.LUST excited for the coming weeks
With only a week until their last competition of the year, LUST is both reflecting on their season and gearing up for the Midwest Conference Championship at Grinnell Feb. 9-11.
Coach Kurt Kirner sees this year’s women’s team as incredibly talented and with “more depth than probably in the last decade.”
Despite significant illness and injury throughout the season, the team has held strong and stepped up. “The strength of our team is character,” Kirner said, “and that has carried us through meets where we have had individuals out with problems.”
After years of struggling with Lake Forest for second and coming up short, Kirner sees the women in “clear second place if we are healthy. We have the run of the conference against all the teams except Lake Forest and Grinnell.”
Claycomb is also enthusiastic about the team’s prospects at Conference. “Not only do we have strong swimmers who could win, but we also have a ton of swimmers that can and will place in the top 12 at Conference, which are the spots that are scored.”
Lawrence has a number of women competing for MWC titles – Vatch in the distance events, Ziege in the 500 and the backstrokes, Claycomb in the breastroke, and senior Heather Prochnow in the fly.
Women’s diving is also in a good place going into the meet. Vallette enthused, “The women are looking very strong. We’re getting harder dives to make us more competitive in the conference.”
The men’s team is, in contrast, young and smaller than in the past, though captain Daniel Martin assures, “It hasn’t dampened our determination to work as hard a possible.”
Coach Kirner sees the men in a fight for third through sixth at Conference, but “if we keep getting strong performance from our core we should be toward the top of that grouping.”
“Having two divers will help our positioning,” said Kirner, “as both Steve Schnorr and Bryan Rosen have contributed significantly to our team as new divers.”
Schnorr, a freshman who joined halfway through the season, is looking forward to competing. “There’s not a lot of male competition in the conference, so it’s wide open.”
As the seniors come to the realization that they’ve swum their last meet in the LU pool, emotions are running high.
“That is something that has just started to hit,” said Claycomb, one of this year’s captains. “I feel sad, but also that it is time to move on. It’s time to hand on the torch, so to speak, to younger swimmers who can be leaders.”
Captain Celine Kitzenberg is “so proud to be part of such a close team. These guys are my family away from home, and it never hit me how much I would miss them until the last home meet.”
Martin said that the realization hasn’t hit him yet. “I love the team – everyone is encouraging, keeps an eye out for someone who is struggling or hurting. We are one big ‘Ohana.'”
As the season enters into its final stretches, Coach Kirner reflected on the current crop of swimmers. “This year’s team is a very inspirational group,” said Kirner.
“They seem to fight hard in every race and the team maintains a very positive attitude even in the face of adverse conditions. As Lou Grant would say, ‘I like their spunk.’