Men’s and women’s swim and dive teams defeat Coe

Ezra Pine

The men’s and women’s swim and dive team started their season off on a high note this past weekend, overpowering Coe College by a sizeable margin. The men’s team won their meet 184.5–97.5, while the women’s team breezed their way to a 176–116 victory.  

Such sweeping victories have become the norm for the Pioneers over the last decade. The men’s team is coming off their fourth straight MWC title, and they’ve won the MWC 16 of the last 18 years. The women’s team has won seven consecutive MWC championships with 20 MWC wins in the past 21 years.  

“As always, our primary expectation is to win conference. Outside of that, if everyone can have some personal growth throughout the season and have fun, then the season will be a success,” said Kevin Donahue ’21, one of the captains for this year. 

Both teams have an abundance of talented swimmers and divers this season. Leading the way for the women’s team is diver Sophie Wojdylo ’22, who last year, became the first female diver to compete at the NCAA D-III Swimming and Diving Championships since 2011. At the national tournament, she placed 25th in the 1-meter competition, and 29th in the 3-meter.  

“I want to compete at nationals again this year. I set that precedent for myself last year, which was a big surprise but really fun […] if I’m able to go to nationals again this year, I’d like to get some redemption because I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to,” Wojdylo said.  

After winning both of her diving events in the first meet against Coe, Wojdylo was named MWC Performer of the Week, picking up right where she left off from last year. Diver Celeste Kaspar ’21, who’s currently finishing up her season for the women’s soccer team, will also likely be a major contributor for the team this year, as she was the only other Pioneer to go to regionals.  

Apart from Wojdylo and Kaspar, multiple swimmers on the women’s side are set to have a large role this season. McKynley Larson ’21 and Nikki Schlegel ’22 won multiple events in the first meet. Maria Eure ’22, Marguerite Devine-Mraz ’21, and Hanna O’Neill ’20 also all came away with a victory. Additionally, Madeline Peak ’21, who’s studying abroad this semester, will be a key swimmer come springtime, as she set the conference record for 50-meter freestyle last year at the MWC championship.  

On the men’s side, ten different athletes came away victorious at the team’s first event. Mitch Sevier ’21, James Park ’20 and Chris Zhang ’22 all impressed by winning multiple events, and they’ll likely play vital roles for the squad throughout the season. Yet, it was two first-years who stood out the most in the first meet. Matas Maksimaitis ’23 and Enrique Valero Ying ’23 were each involved in four victories, with Valero Ying earning MWC Performer of the Week honors.   

 “Enrique winning [MWC] Performer of the Week was really impressive to see. He has the potential to make a huge impact on the men’s team this year,” O’Neill said. After the first week of the season, the Pioneers have already won both men’s and women’s MWC Performer of the Week honors, sending a message to the rest of the conference that they are ready to defend their title yet again.   

Looking ahead, in order to repeat as MWC champions, both teams will likely have to overcome Lake Forest College. Lake Forest was projected to finish second behind Grinnell for men and women in the MWC coaches poll, and they’ll face them this weekend at the Monmouth College Invite.  

 “We’re racing against [Lake Forest] at the Monmouth Invite this weekend, and that’s the only time we compete against them in-season. We won’t see them again until the end of the season, so it’ll be good to get a first look at them and their swimmers. They have some really fast swimmers, and and it’s always fun competing against them,” Donahue said.