SIOUX FALLS, SD – For the previous five seasons, Augustana swimming has never seen more than 25 student-athletes on its roster. This year, with the addition of women’s diving and men’s swimming and diving, that number is 50.
When doubling the size of a roster, facility space, practice times and 1-on-1 coaching sessions are all things that can be affected. However, the returning roster’s reaction to the large addition could make or break the transition.
“The team dynamic is honestly much more energetic,” senior swimmer Hannah Oeltjen said. “A lot of us grew up swimming in club teams with boys, so bringing the men’s team in was very welcomed.”
There are over 3,000 club swim teams, with over 410,000 members, that compete nationwide. The majority of these club teams are comprised of men’s and women’s teams that practice and compete together.
“From day one of my recruitment to arriving on campus, and still today, the women’s team has shown excitement at the addition of our men’s program,” freshman swimmer Mason Kauffeld said. “We are a family sport, so I imagine, to the women, our addition must’ve felt like their family had grown.”
Along with the men’s team, women’s diving will be making a splash, more like trying not to make a splash, but that didn’t work for the sake of the story, for the first time this season.
“We have so many great leaders on the team that it has made it a smooth transition,” senior swimmer Alysse Grohs said. “One thing that sticks out is the increase in energy at every practice. There are more bodies, so our energy and excitement level is much higher.”
With the addition of diving, the team now practices in two facilities. The Elmen Center currently does not have any diving boards for competition, so the divers take a short drive to the Midco Aquatic Center. The swimming team still utilizes the Elmen Center pool for practices.
“Because one of our swimmers, Hailey Handevidt, is also a diver, it’s very easy to connect the sports,” Oeltjen said. “Having someone from both aquatic sports involved on the team allows us to appreciate the work divers put in and include them as family.
“Many of the swim practices are already split up by training groups (Sprint, Distance, Stroke, IM), so the separation of the sport is pretty natural.”
This separation of group practice times and the addition of being at multiple facilities put more time into head coach Lindsie Mickey‘s day. She now has 25 extra swimmers, individually assessing them along with coordinating their practice times.
“Coach Micko has done a great job with adjusting to having so many swimmers,” Grohs said. “It’s a difficult task to write practices for three different training groups, lead practice groups spread from 5:15 am to 6 pm, and give technical feedback to 48 swimmers all in a day.”
One of the ways that coach Micko has delegated some of her tasks is with leadership groups. Grohs said that the team is split into six subgroups, each with upperclassmen leaders. These groups are used for questions, concerns, etc., on training, volunteering and fundraising.
“The seniors take on a natural leadership role and have been great at making us feel included and supported on the team, and we do the same for them,” Kauffeld said.
Both teams have already started competition this year. They traveled to Brookings and St. Paul to face South Dakota State and St. Thomas last weekend. This weekend they will both be at home, with the women going up against Sioux Falls and St. Cloud State in a tri-meet, while the men will face off with St. Cloud State. Both meets will take place at the Midco Aquatic Center with Friday’s competition beginning at 5 pm and Saturday starting at 10 am
“This has been a hard transition for a lot of us, but once we get to a swim meet, it’s all worth it,” Oeltjen said. “Our first meet in Brookings went amazing, and the support I saw on deck between the swimmers was unlike anything I’ve seen the past 3 years.”