Aquacats place eighth in final meet of season


The Wildcats travelled to Allendale, Mich., last weekend, to finish off the season at the GLIAC Championship meet, hosted by Grand Valley State University.

Although the ‘Cats finished a disappointing eighth place of eight teams, there were many positive things to be said about NMU’s performance.

“Overall, everybody swam well. Most of them swam lifetime bests,” head coach Bob Laughna said. “It was a fast meet, there were a lot of fast times.”

In fact, the only negative things Laughna had to say revolved around the disqualification of two of the team’s relay squads. The 200-yard freestyle and 200-yard medley relays were both disqualified because a swimmer jumped early.

Even if both relay teams had placed last, the two missing scores would have made up 44 of the 60.5 points separating Northern from seventh place University of Findlay.

On the positive side, Laughna was extremely impressed with 400-yard individual medley swimmers freshman Stephanie Rogaczewski and freshman Elyse Sawka. The pair turned in unexpectedly strong performances for the second meet in a row, finishing 13th and 14th respectively.

“They just learned (to do the race) four weeks ago,” Laughna said, explaining that Rogaczewski’s newfound confidence has largely contributed to her recent success.

“She didn’t have any confidence [before]. She’s a different person,” he said.

Laughna was also pleased with the performance of distance specialist junior Sarah Cempel. Cempel earned points in the 500-yard, 1000-yard and 1650-yard freestyle races.

“She had a real good weekend,” Laughna said, noting that she managed lifetime bests in every race she participated in.

Her top finish came in the 1650-yard event, when she took 10th with a time of 18:08.85. Cempel also competed on NMU’s seventh place 800-yard freestyle relay.

Ashley Oliver was the only Wildcat to qualify for the final heat in one of her races, placing fifth in the 100-yd backstroke with a time of 59.65. Oliver met the NCAA provisional “B” qualifying time and came less than a second and a half from an automatic national qualifying time of 58.09. She said she was pleased with her performance, although not satisfied.

“My goal was to break a minute,” Oliver said. “I am extremely close to the A-cut, so I’m shooting for that.”

In an effort to meet her new goal, Oliver will travel to the University of Illinois-Chicago this weekend for the Last Chance Meet. The aptly named competition offers provisional qualifiers a final opportunity to meet the automatic standards.

Oliver faces the tough task of trying to immediately prepare for another major meet, so Laughna is again helping her train.

“Hopefully, she’ll make the cut,” said Laughna.

Additional strong performances were turned in by senior Emily Olson (15th in the 100-yard butterfly), junior Hannah Bolger (14th in the 200-yard breaststroke), and senior Lindsay Kuehn (19th in the 1650-yard freestyle).

The Wildcat divers experienced success during the week’s competition. National qualifier Kelli Vander Baan took third place in the 3-meter competition, placing the highest of any NMU athlete at the meet. Vander Baan also finished seventh in the 1-meter competition, followed closely by her sister Kara, who finished eighth.

Overall, Laughna was encouraged by his team’s performance.

“I think they’ve gained more trust in the program,” Laughna said. “They know what to expect.”

Laughna said he hopes the newfound trust and confidence, coupled with the potential arrival of up to ten recruits next year and the departure of 60 seniors from the conference (most from top teams Grand Valley State University and Wayne State University) will lead to future success for the NMU program.