After the Swimming and Diving team’s massive success at the Midwest Conference Tournament two weekends ago, Coach Jonathan Powers said it’s “really rewarding to see [the team’s] hard work pay off.”
The Women finished fifth overall, their highest finish since 2012, and the Men finished in eighth.
“A lot of people dropped a lot of time and to see how they improved throughout the season was really rewarding,” Powers said.
Senior Ben Heichman had the best personal performance of his career, swimming the 1650 yard freestyle in just under 20 minutes.
“I’ve never been totally satisfied but I thought, ‘That was pretty close to perfect,’” Heichman said. Heichman did not feel that much pressure, but knew this was what he had been working for all season.
“It’s your time to perform. It’s all built up to this because you’ve been tapering or you shaved or you’re wearing a tech suit and that’s all geared toward getting the best time you can get,” Heichman said.
Heichman was far from the only Knox competitor to perform at a high level at the conference tournament.
Senior Clarice Bernett broke the Knox record in the Women’s 100 yard backstroke race, placing seventh at the tournament.
Bernett, fellow senior Madeline Bruce, sophomore Sosy Fleming and freshman Melissa Wood finished in fifth place in the Women’s 4×200 relay, breaking the Knox record in the race with their time of 1:44.22.
This same relay team finished in fifth place in the 400 yard freestyle race and a fourth place finish in the 800 yard freestyle race.
Bruce also placed in the top five in two individual events, including a fourth place finish in the 100 yard butterfly.
A lot of preparation goes into the practices leading up to conference.
“The week prior to the conference meet we engage in what we call ‘tapering,’ which is reducing the volume in how much they’re swimming so their bodies are able to recover and so they go into the conference meet really rested,” Powers said.
Powers described the preparation methods for conference, including practicing hard and doing more race-paced training during practices, which prepare the team for more high-intensity races rather than just standard practices.
Powers also said that the leadership situation on the team was quite unique. For the first season since Powers began coaching the team in 2009, the team carried divers on their roster, allowing Knox to compete in a much wider range of competitions.
Powers looked to senior Bonne Matheson, who dove in high school and was knowledgeable about it, to lead the diving team during practices.
“[Bonne] essentially coached [freshmen] Meredith Beck and Lydia Kang. The three of them together worked really, really well and Meredith finished fifth overall. To see them overcome challenges was awesome because diving can be scary, but they rose to the occasion so that was fun to see. And it was Bonne’s leadership that made that possible,” Powers said.
Matheson mentioned that the girls were nervous about competing.
“The rest of the team was really supportive of them and that really helped. They kept a strong head and did all their dives which was awesome,” Matheson said.
Powers also spoke on the team’s success, complementing the abilities of the entire team, including the newcomers to the sport.
“The team has people of all kinds of abilities including some who have never swum competitively before coming to Knox, so in some respects the success at conference is seeing them swim faster than they have at any time previously this year,” Powers said.
Powers followed by stating that roughly 95 percent of the performances by Knox athletes at conference were “season-best swims.”
Sophomore Andrew Hind hadn’t swum competitively until this year, leading to Powers commenting that Hind “swam 50 yards and was able to do that in a little over 25 seconds, and the 100 freestyle, he broke a minute for that which for someone who’s been swimming a handful of weeks is impressive.”
Knox had several athletes place in the top 16 in a handful of events.
“To make top 16 means something,” Powers said.
All of the athletes finished very well, especially Beck, who finished with two fifth place finishes and one seventh.
Powers is confident about the future of the Swimming and Diving program at Knox, and although he admits the team will graduate “some good seniors, the underclassmen really stepped up this year.”
With a historic close to a strong season, the Knox Swimming and Diving team will look to continue building on the progress it has made as a program, hoping to place more athletes in top finishes in next year’s conference championships.