Swimming wraps up season

Amanda Burgess

The women’s and men’s swimming and diving teams traveled to Grinnell Feb. 9-11 where they triumphantly finished off their season with one of their best showings at the Midwest Conference Championships in years.
The women beat Lake Forest, longtime rivals for the runner-up position, as well as Carroll and Monmouth to take second to powerhouse Grinnell.
Head coach Kurt Kirner reflected, “On the women’s side we were more dominant than I had originally predicted, outscoring our nearest competitor Carroll by almost a 2-to-1 margin.”
The young men’s team also surprised with an excellent fourth-place finish. Though Kirner had predicted a battle for anything above sixth place, “we truly squeezed every bit of talent out of our squad.”
The meet got off to an excellent start with the first individual event, as Hayley Vatch and Julia Ziege swept the 500 freestyle with commanding performances and lifetime-best times.
“From there,” Kirner said, “we continued to use that energy along with our close team bond to carry us through the entire weekend.”
Vatch’s distance performances were a highlight of the meet, and Kirner considers her “a true ‘champion’ in every sense of the word.”
Though an entry mistake forced her to swim in the slowest heat of the mile, her great composure and athletic ability allowed her to go out and swim an untouchable time, slicing 37 seconds off her previous season best and winning the event by 28 seconds.
In addition, all five of the women’s relays medaled, driven by exceptional performances from Heather Prochnow.
Despite a shoulder injury that plagued her throughout her last season with the Vikings, Prochnow “was able to fight through the pain to be there for her teammates when it counted most,” said Kirner.
“Her willingness to show a ‘never-give-up’ attitude will stick with me for a long time to come.”
Other medal winners included Vatch with two golds and a bronze, Ziege with three silvers, Taylor Brengel with one silver, and Meredith Claycomb with a bronze.
LU diving also had a prosperous meet. Marissa Vallette went home with one silver and one bronze medal, while Steve Schnorr took advantage of the men’s competition to win two bronzes.
Coach Kirner has another reason to be thrilled about the weekend’s events – he took away the award for Women’s Coach of the Year.
Though honored by the award, he says that he hopes to “do the job of Coach of the Year every year for Lawrence swimming.” Kirner continued, “To me, it is a tribute to the athletes, and us as a team!”
Congratulations to Coach Kirner and LU swimming and diving for an incredible finish to a fantastic season!