After participating in the Midwest Conference (MWC) Championships this past weekend (Feb. 14-16), the 2013-14 season came to a close for the Lawrence University swim team. In his sixth season as head coach, Andrew Fleek led the team to one of their most successful performances at the MWC Championships in recent history. “The team seems to get better every year,” said sophomore Tahnee Marquardt. “Even though practices get rough at times, it absolutely paid off in the end.”
Behind strong swimming from junior Taylor Winter and sophomore Hailey Cardinal, the Lady Vikings placed fourth overall at the MWC Championship. On the first day of the competition, Winter took first in the 500-yard freestyle. Senior Hannah Gabriel and freshman Paige Witter took second and third, respectively, to help LU sweep all three top spots in that event. On that same day, Cardinal broke Lawrence’s school record in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:14.65.
As well as the Lady Vikings performed in swimming events, they ultimately suffered from the fact that Lawrence does not currently have a diving program in place. As a result, Carroll University beat Lawrence by a mere 14 points, after scoring crucial points with their diving team, to claim third in the women’s competition. When asked about the toughest competition at the tournament, Marquardt said, “Grinnell and Lake Forest fight for first and second every year. They have huge teams and a lot of very fast swimmers. Everyone else basically fights for third place.”
The small size of the men’s team has been a negative factor all season. For this reason, expectations were not nearly as high for the men entering the Championships. Nevertheless, with only ten active swimmers, the men placed sixth out of nine teams in the tournament. In doing so, they defeated Beloit, Illinois and Knox Colleges. According to Marquardt, senior Charlie Mann played a big role in the team’s success. “[Charlie’s] 50 yard freestyle was phenomenal to watch (21.54), and he also delivered an insane performance in the 100 yard freestyle (47.85).”
Overall, Lake Forest and Grinnell dominated the competition. The Lake Forest women secured their second consecutive championship—their 15th in 16 years—with 894 total points. On the men’s side, the Grinnell Pioneers snapped Lake Forest’s 12-year win-streak and won their first championship since 2001 with 944 points.
“Sadly, almost half of our team is graduating and [many swimmers] are planning on studying abroad, so the size of our team will shrink significantly next year,” said Marquardt. “Luckily, though, [Coach Fleek] is recruiting like crazy, so we are hoping to get some fresh meat for next season.” Until the start of offseason training this summer, the Vikings will be able to proudly reflect on a successful 2013-2014 swim season.