The road to championships is rarely easy. Athletes, coaches and supporters alike are taken on a ride of ups and downs that will prepare them for the biggest event at the end of a season. For the St. Olaf men’s swim team, this season has been a push in pursuit of another MIAC championship title. The Oles were two-time defending champions and were looking to add a third straight title as they headed into last weekend’s MIAC event,
It has been a difficult period for the team. Within the last three weeks, two swimmers have been injured, and less than a month ago, another swimmer had to leave the team. Billy Brebrick ’16 left mid-season this year, and Coach Bob Hauck emphasized that this was a “huge loss” for the team. His enthusiasm and positive leadership on the team were some of the “glue that held the team together,” Hauck said. Of the two swimmers injured, only one is competing, putting himself at a possible risk for further injury. Mike Gratz ’15, who won three individual titles last year, sustained a fracture in his right foot. Too much pressure may cause a further break that would result in needing surgery. While racing, he is unable to correctly launch off the blocks at the beginning of the race, or push off the wall after completing a flip turn, putting him at a huge disadvantage. Despite these setbacks, Hauck has more than just faith in Gratz and the team as a whole.
“Gratz at 90 percent is faster and stronger than other swimmers at 100 percent,” he said, adding that the rest of the team has come together despite recent adversities. Other swimmers such as Benjamin Kosieradzki ’15, Tanner Roe ’15 and Nick Wilkerson ’17 have stepped up to the plate, in hopes of leading the team to victory.
While the men’s team has suffered losses, the women’s team has grown and the veteran swimmers have high hopes of standing on the podium. Maddie Lee ’16 is the current champion of the 200-yard freestyle, holding the fastest time throughout the MIAC in the event this season. During the interview, Hauck specifically referenced a new member of the team, Claire Walters ’17.
“Watch out for her,” he said, “because she is a favorite in the 200-yard butterfly. She is a possible record breaker as well.”
A repeat win may not occur this weekend, but Hauck is not concerned about winning another title.
“[The team] has worked hard this season, and this weekend is a time to display all the hard work they have put forth,” he said. “I am not worried about whether or not we will win, because in the end, we have something amazing to celebrate.” The celebrating begins with a season of thousands of miles of laps, a season of two-a-day practices, and ends with a team that is stronger together.
Despite competing valiantly at the MIAC championships, the men’s team fell just short of winning a third consecutive title, finishing in second place behind University of St. Thomas.