Swimmers look toward GLIAC finals

Cody Boyer

After making national standings and taking part in a home meet celebrating their seniors, the NMU swimming and diving team is gearing up to attend the 2013 GLIAC Championships.

The swim team will be traveling to Canton, Ohio after taking 24th out of 25 NCAA Division II swimming and diving teams.

No. 6 Ashland University will be hosting the competitions at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 6 through Saturday, Feb. 9.

NMU head coach Heidi Voigt said she is feeling confident about her team’s abilities as they prepare to travel to the championships.

“I feel pretty good,” Voigt said. “I feel that we were a bit under-ranked so we should surprise everyone. The seniors are looking good, and everyone is just aiming at doing well during their final swims.”

Last season, the Wildcats finished fourth place out of nine other teams.

Wayne State University, currently ranked second in the conference, placed first, while Grand Valley (12th) placed second and Indianapolis (not ranked) took third.

NMU was ranked eighth in the NCAA.

Voigt said the championships are unique compared to other competitions the team has experienced throughout the season.

“It is so different than any other meet,” Voigt said. “There is always a lot more pressure. Our segment is really about setting up for a great swim, but you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.”

The Wildcats highlighted last year’s GLIAC Championships in the 200-yard backstroke.

Senior Gabby Alzaga placed second in the event, while sophomore Emily Bourguignon placed third.

Sophomore Emily Brennan took second place in the 400-yard individual medley.

Brennan also broke a school record in the event (4:27.97) to become an NCAA Championship provisional qualifier.

Sophomore Molly Kearney said she is looking forward in competing in this year’s championships after not competing in them last season.

“It will definitely be an exciting competition for me,” Kearney said. “I think our team is prepared for it, and everyone is pumped. I also think we have a lot of girls who are qualified for Nationals later in the season.”

Voigt said Kearney is one of the several athletes that she expects will be a great turnout in her event as they go into the competitions.

“Molly really is a great diver,” Voigt said. “She was really looking good earlier this week, and deserves a turn-of-the-head.”

Voigt also said the relay team is adding a lot of promise to the team’s ranks.

“We also have a really good-looking relay team,”  Voigt said. “They could really bring a great beginning to the week.”

Following the GLIAC Championship, the Wildcats could be getting ready to return to Ohio later in the season to compete in the NCAA Championship if members of the team qualify for the competition.

Last season, sophomore Emily Brennan provisionally qualified for the NCAA when she broke a school record during the 2012 GLIAC Championship in the 400-yard individual medley.

Alzaga also qualified for Nationals.

Alzaga placed eighth in the 200-yard backstroke, achieving All-American status.

The team also earned the Team Scholar All-American Award last season following Nationals.

The award was given due to the team holding a cumulative GPA  of 3.0 or above.

The NCAA Championship takes place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 5 through Saturday, March 9 in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Everyone has been working extremely hard this season,” Kearney said. “The work ethic is a lot more prevalent this time around, and everyone has been improving since the beginning. It’s a friendly and happy environment for all of us.”