Swimmers, divers rising under new coach

By Mackenzie Michael

Under the leadership of a new coach, the women’s swim team is finding its stride this swim season. The team finished second at the Marcussen Invite last Saturday, Oct. 1. A Wisconsin team took first, and Cedar Falls beat Cedar Rapids Kennedy, one year after Kennedy took the title at Marsussen.

“Our biggest competition is Cedar Rapids Kennedy,” senior Abby Dean said. “They were our only dual meet loss so far this season, and our first dual meet loss in couple years. In the past, dual meets against Kennedy have always been close, and I think that helps push us to do our best.”

This is the first season that Mike Hagensick has stepped into the lead coaching role as he takes over from long time coach Dick Marsussen. Before his role as the head coach, Hagensick had coached at multiple other places.

“I have been coaching since 2007,” Hagensick said. “I’ve worked with club teams in Wisconsin, Iowa and just recently was coaching at Waterloo West. I coach because sports are a great catalyst for teaching life skills.”

Hagensick said he likes the progress he’s seen this year. “So far, our season has been going well. We competed at a great invite that Linn Mar hosted that had Ames there who had won State multiple times in the past few years,” he said. “We’ve seen improvements from everyone of these girls in their times and techniques. One of our most recent meets happened Saturday [at the Marcussen Invite], and I thought we did a nice job racing then also. We were able to put up some competitive times as we near the championship portion of the season.”

At the Marcussen Invite, stand up performances included Olivia Clark, a junior on the swim team, who competed in the women’s 50 yard freestyle and placed first with a time of 24.56 seconds; Madison Schoppe, a junior on the swim team, dove in the 1 meter dive, placing second with a score of 385.85; and Sammi Hall competed in the 100 meter backstroke, placing third with a time of 1:00.54 seconds.

Many of the women agree that this season has started off pretty well. “This season has had its up and downs, but I think the girls have really come together as a team. It’s always cool to see how friendships develop as the season goes on and we all get to know each other better and better,” Dean said.

And she said the team is embracing its new leader. “One of the challenges we’ve faced this season is having a new coach,” Dean said. “It hasn’t been easy sailing the entire time, and it’s not supposed to be. It’s through the trials and tribulations that you find what works for your and yourself. I think both our coaches, Mike and Scott [Pinter] have done a good job of working with the swimmers to get through the rough patches and build a stronger team. Mike has brought a lot of new ideas to the team. They  encourage us to take risks and focus on having a growth mindset so that we can become the best that we can be. Though the transition has been rough at times, at the end of the day we know that our coaches all want us to do our best.”

Olivia Clark, is a junior for the CF swim team who is likely to compete at State this year. She said the new coach “has been helping us strive to be our best, so we should be ready to go when State rolls around. He’s given all of the swimmers workouts that have been really beneficial to the strokes we are trying to improve at. He’s also done a good job of giving us feedback after all of our swims. He strongly encourages going out of your comfort zone, which is really important in anything in life, not just in sports. That mindset will help a lot of us make it to State this year.”

Ashton Syharath, a freshman who competes with the diving team, said, “My teammates are doing great so far this season. They have a very positive attitude and cheer everyone on no matter what happens. They don’t give up the try and try until they get it and they won’t stop! We have team bonding gatherings with the swim team and we also have a little get together with the people for just the dive team. It’s so fun to hang out with both my coaches and teammates. It helps to bring us closer together as a team.”

As a whole, the season has been going well for pretty much everyone, but pretty much everyone on the team has had to overcome some type of challenge, including Syharath. “The challenges I faced this season is getting back my rhythm in my one and a half pikes because it’s similar to a blind dive, and you don’t know where to come out to go into the dive. The reason I do diving is because it’s like gymnastics with all the twists and turns.”

With State just a little over a month away, the women are focused on their individual contributions.

“While I don’t think that I’ll be competing at the state swim meet this year, I know that the other girls on our team will and they have been working hard all season so that they are at their best when they get there. I think we’ll be represented at State, and I can’t wait to cheer on my teammates,” Dean said.

Clark said, “Because the season is coming to a close, it’s important for our team to work hard until we go on taper. During taper we will really start to lay off sets and focus more on speed work rather than intensity. Getting rest and eating healthy are big factors that lead to success, but it’s equally if not more important to have the right mindset going into State. I’m hoping to make it to state in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 200 free relay and 400 free relay.”

The next women’s swim meet will be the MVC Super Meet on Thursday, Oct. 13 at  5 p.m. at Iowa City West.

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