Swimmers prepare for season finale

Jon Young

The NMU swimming and diving team has gone over a month without competition since its last meet on Dec. 4 at the Calvin Invite, where they placed sixth out of nine teams. The nearly month and a half off was beneficial for the divers to work on their techniques, but was a long wait between competitions, said freshman diver Breanna Bajo.

“It can be difficult,” Bajo said. “But it gives us a lot of time to work on our dives and kind of tweak things a little bit, and fix the little issues we have here and there.”

Senior diver Kelli Vander Baan leaps toward the water during the Nov. 6 meet against University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. // Justin Key/NW

Although the Wildcats didn’t have any meets over break, they were busy in other areas as head coach Heidi Voigt got six swimmers signed to join the ’Cats roster next season. Three of the six swimmers joining the 2011-2012 squad are from Montana, including sisters Dakota and Madisen Sechena. Voigt is excited to add some depth to the ’Cats’ roster, which has the lowest numbers in the GLIAC.

“I think they’re really going to turn the direction here to becoming a conference challenger for the title,” Voigt said. “A lot of times we’ll have a race or event where we’ll only have one person –– and now, next year, we can look at having three –– which is important and will really bring in the points, which is going to help a lot.”

Voigt’s first season as NMU’s head coach has been a successful one, and she has been pleased with effort put forth by her athletes.

“It’s going well, I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” she said. “The girls are really training hard and giving me their all, and that’s all I can expect.”

Voigt is hoping to surprise some of the competition at the upcoming GLIAC meet on Feb. 9. With the lowest number of swimmers in the conference, the ’Cats still are looking to get swimmers in the finals.

“I think were going to have some finalists; I think were going to surprise some people,” she said. “Our motto all season has been quality, not quantity.”

Quality will also be important on the diving side as the team faces tough competition from Grand Valley and Wayne State who are returning multiple divers who are nationally ranked, plus a handful of new divers. Diving coach Andy Ward knows his team has to have a competitive attitude to get into one of the top eight spots in the GLIAC finals.

“Going into this competition, we know we’re going to have to put our best foot forward in order to go after those divers,” Ward said. “Our girls are going to have to go in there with a good positive attitude, saying we are the under dogs and we’re going to have to go gunning for the big boys.”

The GLIAC championships will be on Feb. 9 in Grand Rapids, Mich. The ’Cats also take the pool this weekend as they travel to UW-Stevens Point on Saturday, Jan. 22 in their last meet before the GLIAC championships.

“I’m looking forward to this meet simply because it has been awhile since we’ve been in competition,” Ward said.  “Some of our practices have been interrupted due to the aches and pains of the season-long competition and practicing, so I’m looking forward just to kind of seeing and putting together everything at this meet.”