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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Men’s and women’s swim and dive teams defend title in conference championship

14 seniors between the men’s and women’s swim and dive teams competed in their final conference meet Sunday Feb. 20. Photo by Paul Hansen.

After a long and successful season, the Grinnell College men and women’s swim teams each earned another Midwest Conference Championship title, competing in Grinnell on Feb. 18, 29 and 20. The men have won 18 of the last 20 titles, and the women have won 23 of the last 25. This weekend brought a new collection of school records, especially from the first and second years. 

“We have a big advantage in terms of not just like our breadth of the types of things we compete in but the depth, so we have a lot of people that can do a lot of different things and a lot of people that are also really good at a lot of different things,” said Helen St. John `22. 

School records broken during the championships include the women’s 100 freestyle by Kailee Shermak `25 with a time of 52:82, the women’s 1650 freestyle by Sophia Carroll `25 with a time of 17:24:84, the women’s 500 free by Carroll with a time of 5:03:15, the men’s 100 butterfly by Ethan Yuen `24 with a time of 50:25, the women’s 200 medley with a time of 1:46:82, and the men’s 200 medley with a time of 1:32:36. Diver Sophie Wojdylo `22 also earned a spot at the NCAA Division III Regional Championships.  

In addition to a wealth of skill in the water, the team has another trick up their sleeve: their chemistry and closeness, pushing them towards success together.  

“I think some of the some of the real high points of the season were getting to know the team,” said Kevin Fitgerald `25. “In the past, I’ve been very focused on the actual athletics of swimming. But with Grinnell, it was a little bit different. And everybody was as focused on the athletic side as I was.” 

The team unity was strong as ever as the team faced each session of the 3-day meet. Carroll cites a “palpable energy on the pool deck.” When team members were not competing, they were cheering for others, and for Carroll this was one of the best parts.  

“It was really great to come to this team and swim,” said Carroll. “It’s been one of the first times that I’ve been able to really feel like I’m swimming for a team and part of a team. I think that really helped me in the end.” 

Carroll and Fitgerald both earned the title Swimmer of the Year, for the women’s and men’s teams respectively. This honor goes to top contributors in team points. Both also swam times that qualified for the NCAA “B” cut, Carroll in the 1650-yard freestyle with a time of 17 minutes and 24.84 seconds, and Fitzgerald in the 200-yard backstroke with a time of 1:48:09. First and second year swimmers placed in many events, scoring many points for the team. 

“They are a powerhouse of competitors. And I don’t think I fully realized just how amazing they were, until this meet,” said St. John. “It’s not even just the first years, the whole team has been through so much and each year has been a wildly different experience at Grinnell up to this point.” 

Fitzgerald attributes this confidence, closeness and competitive drive to getting to be on campus, something the second years did not have. Carroll thinks of winter break training as a time that the team used to grow together. Having started their first year strong, the future of Grinnell swim and dive is bright. 

“We’re definitely getting much better as a team,” said Fitzgerald. “And even with some very important people leaving over the next couple of years, I think we’ll be able to keep the team as good as it has been while also incorporating our own little ideas for improvement.” 

Carroll said she feels momentum within the team and is excited to see what the future holds. The weekend held a lot of this excitement for her and others.  

“Definitely the best athletic event I’ve ever attended, because I’ve never been a part of a group with so many people who are so passionate about what they’re doing and who are so supportive,” said Fitzgerald. 

The weekend was a strong finish to the 2021-2022 season, but a little bittersweet for fourth-years who had swam their last meet.  

“It was it was emotional for me and for a lot of other seniors that are graduating this year. But in general, there was just a lot of joy and pride that I felt,” said St. John. “And it was, some of the best performances that I’ve seen from the team from for years. I mean, there were records being smashed left and right. It was it was an honor to witness everything that that went on this this past weekend.” 

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