The Prairie Fire swim team will be spending the upcoming weekend in a fight for Midwest Conference glory.
The three-day meet, held in Appleton, Wis., will see the women’s team aiming for a spot in the top half of the conference and perhaps a third place finish, bettering their achievement of last year.
The men’s team fully expects that “everyone does well enough that they’re satisfied with conference as a culmination of the work they’ve been doing since October,” said sophomore and men’s captain Tyler O’Neill.
O’Neill was excited about the work the men’s team has put in this season and expects it to pay off at conference.
“I think most people on the men’s team have showed great dedication, especially swimmers who are new to the sport,” said O’Neill, noting that two freshman swimmers have baseball and wrestling backgrounds but had never swum competitively prior to coming to Knox. “We’re focused … as a men’s team on putting a satisfactory finish on the season, satisfactory both to us and our coach and our school.”
O’Neill was optimistic about the women’s team as well.
“The girl’s team overall, they’re looking to possibly place third in conference, which would be fantastic. I don’t think many Knox teams have done that in recent years,” he said.
The women’s team has been performing strongly all season, going 4-0 in dual meets, winning the Monmouth Invitational and Eureka Sprint Meet and placing third in the Grinnell and Augustana Invitational meets.
In several events, Knox swimmers are seeded first in the conference: sophomore Bess Cooley in the 100-yard breaststroke and sophomore Katie Miller in the 50-yard freestyle. Sophomore Emilie Perrot is seeded second in the 200 and 400-yard individual medley and third in the 100-yard backstroke.
Cooley, who will be swimming the 100 and 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard individual medley, is aiming to drop her times in events that have already shattered Knox records this season.
“Personally, I think it’s gone pretty well,” she said in reference to the season. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to swim the events I’m going to be swimming at conference a lot … so I get a lot of practice on those.”
Although optimistic about winning her events at conference, Cooley regarded getting a personal best time as her main goal for conference.
“I’m definitely trying first and foremost to get a best time,” she said. “When I’m in there, when I’m in the water, I’ll try to win it, but it’s not a huge deal right now.”
Cooley viewed the dynamic of the entire team as one of the strengths of the season.
“There are so many people trying really hard at practice all the time and that makes you try hard,” she said. “It’s just easier to work and to have fun, too. The energy level on the team and the drive and the dedication was a lot better than last year.”
Both teams look to remain strong next year, with the men’s team losing only one senior and the women’s team currently strong in its number of sophomores.
“We’re looking to build on the work we did this season and the sort of personal connections we’ve made as a team and build on those to have a consistently rigorous and dedicated swim season,” O’Neill said.
In regards to the men’s team specifically, O’Neill had movie-like predictions.
“In recent years we’ve resembled the Minnesota District 5 pee-wee hockey team, but we are developing quickly enough that it won’t be long before we become ‘The Mighty Ducks’ of MWC swimming,” he said.