‘Cats clawing to get back into pool after national success

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RIDING WITH THE TIDE—The Wildcats’ Swim and Dive teams’ practice time is in limbo right now due to the pause of practices for athletic teams that aren’t in the midst of competition. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

As much as they could, the NMU Men’s and Women’s Swim and Dive teams have made the most out of not being able to compete in typical fashion by taking part in the College Swimming and Diving Coaches Athletic Association Virtual Cup and Collegiate Virtual 5000. 

After posting two strong weeks in the CSCAA Virtual Cup, the Wildcats came away with three pool records, and have created momentum for Head Coach Heidi Voigt’s program going forward. 

However, with the pause of NMU athletic practices for teams who aren’t in competition (Hockey and Greco-Roman Wrestling are only exceptions) with the increasing COVID-19 numbers, the team wasn’t able to compete in the third and fourth weeks of the cup, Voigt said. Despite this, Voigt thought that the athletes were on track and training well, and that she’s hoping that they can get back at it after Christmas or when COVID-19 numbers come back down.

“We broke three pool records, so that was pretty fun. We had great energy; it was holding our team together and it was fun to compete again,” Voigt said.

The team’s performance was a confidence booster that their training is working, and that the athletes are getting in shape everyday, Voigt said. She added that she thinks the drive of not being able to compete and having an opportunity has helped pool records. Not only does that drive help, but so did the support from teammates.

“I think everybody on the pool deck knows and they’re watching; they know who’s ready so everybody’s there supporting and I think that’s what helps a lot,” Voigt said. “Everybody is standing and cheering and it kind of makes you forget where we’re at and what we’re doing in a global pandemic.”

The ‘Cats recently participated in the Collegiate Virtual 5000 as well through the course of the month of October, and it replaced the Open Water National Championships. This event was optional for the athletes at NMU, Voigt said, but looking at the results, it sure seemed worth it. 

Senior Ondrej Zach won the virtual event on the men’s side with a time of 49:42 in the 5K event, and junior Felipe Lemos impressed as well with a third place time of 53:52. In the women’s race, senior Katharina Springhetti took 13th out of 38 competitors with a time of 58:17.

As this semester has gone on, Voigt thought that the team was in a really good spot, and thought that they were over the what-ifs of participating during the pandemic. Now with the numbers increasing and with the pause of athletic practices, she thinks it has shifted the ground underneath them a little bit. At some point, Voigt is hoping to get her team back into the pool in some way, possibly smaller groups. 

“The best thing for people to be doing during the pandemic is doing what they love and moving their bodies around,” Voigt said. 

The team has been holding each other accountable to get into the pool and stay in shape during the pause, Voigt said. It hasn’t made it any easier however, to not be able to see them for practice.

“I think it’s really hard. I see them in the pool for open swims and in the gym, so I think they’re for the most part, making the best out of the situation that they can,” Voigt said. “It’s a tough time for sure.” 

There is something to look forward to for the ‘Cats, and that’s the fact that they currently have a schedule for competition in place for the winter. As currently scheduled, the Wildcats will host DI University of Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday, Jan. 9, a team that NMU has been facing consistently the past couple of years. 

The early part of the schedule stays busy for Northern when they travel to Wayne State University for its first GLIAC conference meet on Monday, Jan. 11 through Friday, Jan. 15. The good thing to know is that there are people in our country that’re having swim meets, Voigt said, and they’re doing it safely, so there’s a way to do it.

“We’re going to go down there and compete everyday, and also get a little practice in. That’ll be really cool, and it’ll be a good test to figure out how to do a conference meet safely. How do we make relays work? And where do people need to stand? And how much time do we need to take in between events?” Voigt said. “I think we’ll be making tweaks of racing each day to figure out how we can do things safely.”

Doing things safely is the key, and safety will be the biggest contributing factor to when the ‘Cats will be back into the pool.