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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion — Its okay to outgrow your college friends
Opinion — It's okay to outgrow your college friends
Megan PoeApril 12, 2024

‘Cats compete despite pool worries

Last April, amid concerns about the deteriorating condition of the 31-year-old PEIF pool, the NMU swim and dive team was shocked when they were told they were only guaranteed one more season as a team. After a re-evaluation of the pool’s condition, the team was recently guaranteed another season.

“Right now we’re just going to go on a year-to-year basis with the pool,” head coach Bob Laughna said. “With the economy today it just doesn’t seem like we are going to have a long-term solution in the near future.”

When the pool was inspected last year it was determined that the aging drainage and filter systems could possibly fail at any given time. In addition, NCAA regulations now require a pool to be 60 inches deep at the starting blocks; the PEIF pool is only 48 inches deep.

The cost of bringing the pool up to code could be upwards of $2,000,000. To help alleviate the pool’s problems and increase the lifespan, the athletic department spent $8,000 on new filters and upgrades to the filter system.

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After the announcement was made that the swim team might be limited to one more season, the team’s future was further altered when then-head coach Jon Wilson announced he was leaving NMU for a head coaching job at UW-Oshkosh. Laughna, who had been involved with NMU swimming as a volunteer assistant and interim head coach for over 20 years, was hired to take over the coaching vacany.

This left Laughna the daunting task of recruiting and managing a team without the assurance that the swim program would even exist the next season.

“Recruiting is not going to be easy,” Laughna said. “All you can do to convince a recruit to come here is say next year we’ll have a team, and hopefully after that we’ll have a team.”

The ‘Cats have already attempted to persuade six recruits to join the team for the 2008-2009 season. None of them committed to Northern, in part due to the pool situation, Laughna said. The coach said he is planning on contacting about another eight recruits with the hope of still bringing in a strong freshman class.

The pool situation also resulted in this year’s freshman class consisting of only three athletes.

“I’m really excited to get another year here. Hopefully it will be all four years,” said Kate Willems, a freshman on the team. “It’s great because I know I will be swimming here next year. I won’t have to worry about transferring or figuring out what to do for the future.”

In the meantime, Laughna has to focus on other ways to improve the team without the assurance that he will be able to land elite recruits. He said he knows he may have to rely on walk-ons to help round out the roster in the next few years.

“I take anybody who wants to compete, who is going to try hard and who is going to be a good teammate,” Laughna said.

Athletes on the swim and dive team also speak highly of Laughna’s coaching style and ability to get the most out of his teams. This ability shows in the success that the team has had this season, including a 116-110 upset victory over Hillsdale that came down to the final event of the meet.

“I think [Laughna] is doing a really good job with the team,” sophomore Sarah Cempel said. “Our expectations are a lot higher than they were in the past.”

In the meantime, all that the NMU athletes can do is compete and go on with their swimming careers, knowing that every year may be the last year for the program.

“Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope that the pool holds up as long as it can,” Laughna said.

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