Last Saturday, in the Knox Invitational inside Lay Natatorium, history was made. Freshman Elizabeth “Bess” Cooley broke the school record in the 100-yard breaststroke in 1:12.23, winning the event, as the Prairie Fire women’s swimming team finished in second in a meet with the Red Devils of Eureka College and the Hannibal LaGrange Trojans. Cooley also placed first in the 200-yard individual medley.
Teammate Sarah MacDowell won the 100-yard freestyle in 1:04.69 and placed third in the 50-yard freestyle. Anna Dvorak took second in the 100-yard freestyle, in 1:10.42, while Ally Rashid finished in sixth. Bekah Hancock finished in second place in the women’s 100-yard backstroke, with a time of 1:15.78 and seventh in the 100 yard breaststroke. Kaylin Maanum took second in the 200-yard freestyle in 2:16.16. Krista Ahlberg took home fifth place in the 50-yard freestyle and third in the 500-yard freestyle, while Tory Kassabaum won the 500 free. In 1:15.56, Lu Yeager placed third in the 100-yard butterfly.
The Prairie Fire women’s 200-yard medley relay team of Kassabaum, Cooley, Maanum and Dvorak took second place with a time of 2:07.07 and the team of Hancock, Kelley O’Connor, Sara Dreiser and Yaeger took third place just over 10 seconds later. The Fire 200-yard freestyle relay team of Maanum, Dvorak, Kassabaum and Elizabeth Cooley placed first in 1:54.16.
“This was the first meet that I really felt team unity,” Kassabaum said. “Everyone was cheering during all of the races. It feels good to know that the team cares. I think that everyone on the team swam really well, especially since we came off of such a long break from practicing together.”
On the men’s side, the Prairie Fire finished in second, while the Trojans placed first and third respectively, with the Red Devils placing fourth. The 200-yard medley relay team of Jeff Wickman, Alan Ning, Tony Meyer and Tyler O’Neill took first place in 1:51.60. The 200-yard freestyle relay team of O’Neill, Wickman, Meyer and Junyoung Cho placed first in 1:38.13.
In the 50-yard freestyle, Cho placed first in 25.20, and 11 hundrenths of a seconds behind him, was teammate Wickman, who finished second. Junior Fayne Lawson finished in eighth in 31.48.
Meyer placed first in the men’s 200-yard freestyle with a time of 2:01.18 and first in the 100-yard freestyle. O’Neill won the 200-yard individual medley in 2:09.78 and took second in the 100-yard freestyle. Ning won the 100-yard butterfly and took home second in the 100-yard breaststroke. Wickman won the 100-yard backstroke in 1:06.58. In the 500-yard freestyle, Lawson brought home second place in 7:58.06
“This year’s freshmen are simply amazing. They’ve made really great progress, not to mention that they have pushed me as well,” Lawson said. “This is the best Knox swimming has been since I have been here.
“My performance (in the Knox Invitational) was better than I expected. I had not been in a pool since the week before finals and I had a personal record in the 50 free. I also swam the 500 free for the first time ever.”
Swimming coach Nikki McLellan added, “I think the swimmers did a great job coming back after being gone for over a month. They worked really hard in the practices leading up to the meet and it really showed in their performance. As of right now, we have a lot of swimmers in the top 10 for their events in the conference. We are trying to focus on preparing ourselves the best we can to make a great showing at the conference championships. I think it is going to be a record year for Knox Swimming.”
The Prairie Fire men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams compete next on Saturday, Jan. 24 in Eureka, Ill. “As a team, we want Eureka to eat our bubbles in two weeks at our sprint meet,” Lawson said. “We also want to take as many podium positions as we can at Monmouth to let the Midwest Conference know we are coming. We are coming together as a team, but we all still need to work on the pesky flip turns.”