Wildcat swim and dive finds success despite adversity


COMING BACK CHAMPS—The NMU Men’s Swim and Dive team won the CSCAA Open Water Nationals in Lawrence, Kansas this past weekend. Pictured is the winning team Grant Combs, Jasper Pullinen, Ondrej Zach and Thibault Auger. due to a lack of lifeguards

Dallas Wiertella, Staff Writer

The NMU Swim and Dive team have returned from the Open Water Nationals in Lawrence, Kansas taking home a first place victory in the CSCAA men’s competition. 

The winning men’s team consisted of four swimmers, and two Wildcat women were also featured in the event. Ondrej Zach took home first with a time of 56:10.6, four minutes ahead of the second place swimmer. He was followed by Jasper Pullinen in sixth and Thibault Auger in eighth. Closing it out for the ‘Cats in 19th place was Grant Combs. On the women’s side, Maria Arakelian and Vanessa Steigauf placed 60th and 62nd respectively. Zach is proud not only of his momentous feat but also his team’s performance over the weekend. 

“I think everybody did their job 100%,” Zach said. “We put in a lot of work in practice and the outcome was really great for us.”

Zach made it to the Czech Republic national team in August and is still showing his prowess at NMU. Last year, the women took second and the men took third in the GLIAC Championships. Returning an already impressive lineup, they’re prepared to repeat their success once again.  

“I think especially this year we are going to be really strong,” Zach said. “Both the men and women’s side have the potential to score great for us and hopefully we win again.” 

On the diving side, there is a small amount of turmoil. Connor Dorff recently accepted a full time position at a different school leaving the divers without a coach. Head Coach Heidi Voigt has split up the role with assistant coach Matt Williams who has had previous diving experience. 

“He [Dorff] was lucky enough and well-deservedly took a full time position with a DI program and we’re all really happy for him.” Voigt said. “Trying to find a part time position in such a niche avenue as diving is really tough. There are help wanted signs all over the country and we are not the only team in the GLIAC who can’t find a diving coach.” 

The resilience of the divers comes into play during practice as the students show up to help each other as much as they can. The athletes still do need a coach to lead them in the right direction and are still on the look for their next coach. Until then, the Wildcats still show up to practice to help take home more victories. 

“I think most days they handle it well, but there are days that are just hard,” Voigt said. “I’m really impressed with the things they are able to do and work on and help each other. I think most days they do an amazing job but some days they just need someone to give them a little bit more feedback.”

With a whole season ahead of them and some new challenges to face, the Wildcats host their annual Green and Gold Intrasquad meet at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2 in the NMU PEIF pool.