Amidst the publicity of NMU’s football team’s homecoming game, another NMU athletic event was somewhat lost in the shuffle. Despite the other event, only a short walk away, the NMU Women’s Swimming and Diving team opened the competitive season on Oct. 4 with the Green and Gold exhibition meet.
The annual intra-squad event pits half the team against the other in friendly competition.
This year, the Green squad emerged victorious by a score of 313 points to 287.
The Green team was led by solid performances from team captain and senior Emily Olson, who won the 200-yard Individual Medley and the 100-yard Butterfly. Freshman Elyse Sawka also turned in a promising performance, winning both the 500 and 200-yard freestyle races. She won the 500 by nearly ten seconds with a time of 5:47.34.
“It’s a good start, I think, for me and everybody,” Sawka said.
It was a sentiment echoed by head coach Bob Laughna.
“I thought everybody swam well,” he said, explaining that the team had hard practices the week preceding the meet, and that despite being tired, everyone competed strongly.
Also turning in solid races were newcomers Catherine Sromek of the Green team and Ashley Oliver of the Gold team. The two competed in the same races, and each finished seconds behind the other.
With half the individual races being won by non-returners, the contribution of the freshmen and other newcomers in the meet was significant.
This could be good for the team, as most of the top producing athletes from last year are no longer on the team.
The Green and Gold meet gave Laughna a chance to test part of his strategy for this season, which will entail tweaking the races that certain swimmers will specialize in.
“I let them decide what events they wanted to swim,” Laughna said, adding that the athletes might find new events they could succeed in.
Also competing at the Green and Gold meet on Saturday was sophomore athlete Jackie Walsh. Walsh is the newest face on the team, after deciding to walk on several weeks prior to the meet.
“I just really felt like if I didn’t give it a shot, then I’d spend the rest of my life wishing I had at least tried,” Walsh said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m really glad I’m getting back in the pool. I just love to swim.”
Although Walsh wasn’t happy with her times, she recognized it was a disadvantage joining the team when the season was already underway.
Laughna said that he believes Walsh will have a positive impact on the team’s season.
“She’s a hard worker and a great person,” he said.
Diving coach Andy Ward was also pleased with the performances turned in by the NMU divers. Kelli and Kara Vander Baan renewed their sibling rivalry in both the 1 and 3-meter diving events.
Kelli took first in both, edging her sister out by several points.
“I’ve changed around this year’s early practice sessions,” Ward said. “We’ve been doing a lot more strength and conditioning drills and not as much diving. To see that the girls are where they are at this point in the season gives me great expectations for where I believe we can be by the end of the year. We’ve set some lofty goals and I expect to meet them.”
The team will have another shot to gauge their performances against Moorehead state on Oct. 17 with the ‘Cats first actual meet.