The North Central swimming and diving teams have faced their fair share of adversity over the last few years, and that doesn’t just include the pandemic. Both the men’s and women’s teams have had two coaching changes in three years, but the tight knit culture the teams have built within their small rosters has helped them stay focused on their work in the pool no matter what happens out of it
“During practice it’s all really close-knit, we’re pushing each other,” said men’s team junior Ben Laurich. “Being in the two lanes next to each other sometimes, it’s kind of a race almost of who can go faster than the other one during the workouts. We don’t have a lot of us, but we push each other really really hard because we don’t want to lose during practice. We’re all incredibly close, we know each other well, we hang out, and it makes it just so much fun.”
They’ve also benefited from the help of graduate assistants, alumni and other volunteers to see them through the second half of their season while the teams are without a head coach.
“We’re very fortunate to have Grace, who is the graduate assistant,” said women’s team junior Amelia Woods. “She has on multiple occasions in multiple ways taken the lead. She’s done a great job.”
“We had a really solid season last year and we were building a team culture with them and they’re gone now, so we’ve gotta put it behind us,” said Laurich of the coaching situation for North Central swimming. “We’ve got a grad assistant and some alumni helping out. They’re going above and beyond to make sure this program stays running and finishing off the season strong, I’m incredibly grateful for them.”
The team spent the season viewing their various meets, particularly dual and tri meets with conference opponents, as more about individual improvements rather than team points on the day as they worked to try and peak at the end of season conference meet
“It’s not the best sometimes when we have these less than ideal results, in these dual meets and tri meets, but that happens sometimes,” said Laurich. “We’re here, we’re working through it. The big goal at the end of the season is conference and that’s what we’re fighting for.”
“The personal victories are huge, being able to celebrate those rather than focusing on the points,” added Woods. “We are a really small team, especially in this division.”
The CCIW conference championships arrived on the weekend of February 17 – 19 and featured some standout performances from the North Central squads.
The men’s best relay finish came in the 200 yard individual medley relay, and the women’s 400 individual medley, with both placing sixth.
The men’s team set seven individual personal bests, including a 14th place overall finish for Gavin Sheehan in the 100 yard butterfly and Laurich improving his 500 yard freestyle time by 22 seconds.
The women set ten personal bests, including three for Amelia Woods in the 50 yard freestyle, 100 yard freestyle and 100 yard butterfly
Regardless of who wins or loses an individual heat, event or meet, what’s stands out most is the atmosphere of friendly competition not only between teammates, but across lanes to opponents as well.
“Swimming in general is a very supportive environment,” said Woods. “Everyone’s hoping to achieve [personal records] and everyone’s hoping to drop times so it’s a really cool environment to be involved in where everyone can be happy for each other.”
“You see the person next to you going as hard as they can to try and beat you, that motivates you to push a little bit harder because I don’t want to lose to that guy and he doesn’t want to lose to me,” Laurich said.
“It’s nonstop excitement and encouragement,” said Woods, who is an academic senior. “People will be hyping each other up, so that’s definitely what I’ll miss most and what I’ve enjoyed most about being on the team.”