At a liberal arts institution like Knox, student-athletes often forego the opportunity to study abroad in favor of competing. This is not always the case, as the Prairie Fire swimming and diving teams can attest.
With multiple members of the men’s and women’s teams participating in off-campus study during some portion of the season, the Prairie Fire will be shorthanded in the 2010-2011 season.
“A lot of people are abroad,” junior Katherine Miller said. “This is going to be a building year for us.”
In their first competition at Monmouth College on Nov. 3, the team was missing junior Laura Blue and junior Tyler O’Neill—the men’s team captain—both of whom are currently abroad. The women’s team will also soon be without juniors Rachel Clark and Bess Cooley, who will begin off-campus programs in winter term.
But despite the in-season turnover, prospects are not low for the Prairie Fire. The women’s team, coming off a fourth place finish in 2010, is still very talented.
“We might not finish as well as last year,” junior and women’s team co-captain Tory Kassabaum said, “but I still think everyone will swim their best at conference. We will just be a little more individually focused this season.”
Miller, Kassabaum and fellow junior co-captain Sarah MacDowell will be joined by freshmen Marie Anderson, Heidi Reidel and Carrie Stephens. And while there are open spots on the roster, Anderson, Reidel and Stephens will not face an abundance of pressure this season.
“The freshmen will eventually develop,” Kassabaum said. “They are very talented, but we know it will take a while before they are at the next level.”
The men’s team looks to be competitive as well, especially once O’Neill returns. In their meet against Monmouth, the men fell hard 152-19. Aside from O’Neill, the team will be led by fellow junior Jeff Wickman and freshman Alex Jandernoa. At Monmouth, Wickman took second in the 200-yard individual medley.
The team’s schedule includes two meets during winter break, and a rare home meet against Eureka College on Jan. 15. Given the staggered nature of their season, Miller emphasized the importance of staying in shape over winter break.
“Just missing one day of swimming feels like three days,” Miller said. “So we run, we try to get in the water as much as possible, we do whatever we can to keep working out.”
This will be the second season for head swimming coach Jonathan Powers. An Assistant Professor in the Economics Department, Powers has to balance academia and athletics. Miller and Kassabaum both expressed their appreciation of Powers’ unique perspective.
“Coach Powers balances it well,” Kassabaum said. “He really focuses on academics, as well as swimming. He understands if we have a really big test or paper.”
Miller interjected, emphasizing that Powers was “so understanding in general.”
The team’s next competition is this weekend at the Monmouth Invitational at Monmouth College. Competition begins at 11 a.m.