In famous rivalries, the Red Sox have the Yankees and NMU’s hockey team has Michigan Tech.
On Nov. 8, the NMU varsity swimming and diving team will get its first chance against its own rival of sorts, as the coming weekend marks the return of a figure formerly prominent in Northern Michigan athletics. Previous head coach Jon Wilson will escort his squad from UW-Oshkosh to the PEIF.
This year’s Wildcat team is looking forward to the friendly rivalry.
“I don’t think it’s awkward,” said senior team captain Emily Olson. “This year we’re kind of over [him leaving]. We’re excited to crush Jon.”
Northern head coach Bob Laughna is also excited for the meet, believing that it will be extremely close. While Wilson has key breast stroke specialists, Laughna said NMU’s team will have an advantage in the distance events.
For the meet with UW-Oshkosh, the swim team will be looking to continue to improve.
Last weekend at Carthage College, the Wildcats earned third place out of four teams. They finished just 30 points away from second-place Lewis University.
Overall, Laughna was very pleased with the performances his athletes turned in.
“Everybody dropped their times a lot,” he said. “They were happy, too.”
Laughna said he was especially pleased with the performances of distance swimmers freshman Elyse Sawka and junior Sarah Cempel. Sawka finished fourth in the 1000-yard freestyle, with a time of 11:37.22, nearly 13 seconds faster than her previous race at that distance.
Cempel swam the 500-yard freestyle in 5:38.37, which was good enough for fourth place. Despite her solid placing, Cempel said she wasn’t satisfied, as her time was several seconds off of her personal best.
Although she said she’s not yet in competition shape but still remaining optimistic.
“I knew I wasn’t going to (be where I used to be) at the start of the season,” Cempel said. “But I know I will be.”
Newcomer Ashley Oliver also made an impact for the team, in both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke. Oliver placed fourth in both events.
Olson placed highest of any Wildcat swimmer, with her second-place finish in the 100-yard butterfly.
However was more focused on the team’s performance than her own, and said she is optimistic about where the team is going.
“I think we’re progressively getting better,” Olson said. “Come December we’ll all be ready to go.”
According to Laughna, the team’s biggest weakness is its lack of relays right now, and he’s hopeful that the spots will gradually be filled.
The least concern for the team is a strong breast-stroke specialist, a role Laughna expects to be filled by Sawka, and freshmen Catherine Sromek, Stephanie Rogaczewski, along with junior Hannah Bolger.
Carthage College recently built a new swimming facility, but no diving boards were installed. As a result, no diving events took place at the meet.
With the halfway point of the season nearing, Laughna plans to add time and distance to the team’s practices, hopefully lowering its times and improving consistency.
The UW-Oshkosh meet is on Nov. 8 at the PEIF pool. Events begin at noon.