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Swim and dive starts the season with a win against Luther

Grinnell swimmers and divers beat Luther for the second year in a row in a meet that has become a tradition. Contributed photo.
Grinnell swimmers and divers beat Luther for the second year in a row in a meet that has become a tradition. Contributed photo.

The men’s and women’s swim and dive teams splashed into the new season last weekend with big wins all around against Luther College. At the dual meet, the men’s team won 199-92 while the women’s team cruised to a 188-111 victory. Veteran swimmers and divers as well as standout newcomers contributed to the team’s victory.

“There’s a first year, Sarah Weltz ’21, who just came out of nowhere and killed it in her 100 breaststroke,” recalled Maria Venneri ’18, one of the captains of the women’s swim and dive team. “On the men’s side we had another first year, Kevin Donahue ’21, who actually got our ‘Midwest Conference Swimmer of the Week’ this week. … It’s just so fun to see these newcomers do things you don’t really expect them to do.”

Although Grinnell and Luther do not compete in the same conference, the Pioneers make a point every year of opening their season with a dual meet against Luther, as it is a relatively comparable program to Grinnell’s and thus offers a good introduction to competition.

“My first couple of years they were better than us, and so it was a really tough competition and we usually came really close to beating them but didn’t quite,” Venneri said. “In the last two years, we actually beat them. It’s just so much fun to go to this dual meet knowing it’s going to be really good competition.”

This weekend the swim and dive teams will be competing on the road at Coe College. For the divers in particular, who saw big results from veterans Summer White ’18, Katie Parrish ’18, Elaine Thut ’20 and Jonathan Rebelsky ’20 at Luther College last week, this means continuing to wait for a home meet at Grinnell before bringing new divers to competition.

“We have the best facility in the Midwest Conference, and so going anywhere else is, for us, a step down,” explained Michael Lee ’18, a diver and captain of the men’s swim and dive team. “[Diving Coach Mike Retelsdorf] and [Head Coach Erin Hurley] want them to have their first competition be home, so they’ll have that sort of comfort and all they have to worry about is diving as they would dive in practice.”

For a team as consistently successful as swim and dive, winning meets and the Midwest Conference Championship has become something of a given. The women’s team has won 17 of the last 19 Midwest conference championships, while the men’s team has won 13 of the last 15. Despite this strong winning pattern, swimmers and divers alike recognize the importance of staying motivated and not taking any meet or championship for granted.

“Clearly, the reason that we are a successful team is because we put in the work for it. We compete against Division II schools and Division III schools that aren’t in our conference that are clearly better than us, to get rid of that sense of false security that we have sometimes,” Venneri said. “There are plenty of other people that are much faster, and that keeps us motivated to try to beat these better schools. Our driving force as a team isn’t necessarily to get that championship — and I think that’s a pro to our team. A lot of us are here to better ourselves, whether that’s as athletes or as people.”

Lee also emphasized that while winning meets and championships is always a goal, the divers are particularly focused on improving as individual athletes.

“Our dive coach Mike has so many catchphrases, but one that always sticks is ‘dive to win,’” Lee said. “Be sure that as you’re approaching the board, you have the intent of doing your best. That means giving it 100 percent and diving in order to dive well, as opposed to diving not to make a mistake. If you dive to not make a mistake, then you’re holding something back.”

The team goes to Coe College on Friday, Nov. 10, and they will wrap up the weekend at Monmouth on Saturday, Nov. 11.


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