In the wake of their first three 2017 seasonal matches at Monmouth, Augustana and Illinois Colleges, the Knox men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are looking ahead to the Pioneer Classic, hosted by Grinnell College.
At their Monmouth season opener, both Knox teams suffered losses to the host as well as to North Central. They went 49-154 and 76-129 respectively for men, and 81-116 and 65-136 respectively for women. Their second meet at Augustana yielded similar results, with Knox men’s losing 21-170 to Augustana and 64-78 to Millikin. Knox women lost 27-178 and 66-117. The third and final meet of November saw the first win for Knox women at Illinois College in their triumph over Principia 124-32, but they fell to their host 90-101 and to Millikin 72-152. Knox men fell to all three, going 23-134 at Augustana, 29-109 at Millikin and 45-99 to Principia.
Senior Errol Kaylor, in his second year with Knox men’s swimming, said that while the team has met their fair share of losses so far this season, competition is always a learning process.
“We really use these meets to feel out how our seasons are going and what we’re going to be doing in the bigger meets. Especially for the men’s team, gaining experience can be crucial to keeping the team afloat,” Kaylor said.
In the past, while women’s swimming has maintained sufficient numbers, the men’s team has struggled to do the same. Last year, they had only seven swimmers. In the past three years, men’s swimming has managed to keep the team sport status, having stayed consistently above six swimmers. At any less than six swimmers, men’s swimming would have been relegated to a club sport, void of funding from Knox and therefore unable to afford a coaching staff and other resources typically given to team sports.
“We probably wouldn’t even get to practice together,” junior Julia Steen said.
This year, the men’s team has grown to ten members with the addition of three first-year swimmers.
“To have division III status, a men’s team has to have at least eight swimmers,” sophomore Sylvia Bowen-Bailey of the women’s team said.
“And for the past two years we’ve been on probation because we have not had eight swimmers. But we made it this year, so we’ve got at least another three years with the men’s team,” junior Sosy Fleming said.
“We were very excited that we had enough men to fill out two relays this year.”
With such a small team of 25 total, the loss of even one swimmer can make all the difference, even for the women.
“The team changes a lot,” Steen said. “There are a lot of people abroad right now, sometimes people can’t [swim] Fall Term but they can do Winter Term. We have a lot of two-sport athletes, it just changes a lot.”
In terms of how the team manages to raise their numbers and keep them consistent, Steen said that a lot of swimmers transition from the water polo team, a club sport at Knox.
“A lot of people join water polo, and then that season ends and swimming starts right after. So people who don’t think that they’re going to swim will end up swimming. It’s a great way to recruit people,” Steen said.
As opposed to other team sports, swimming is one that values the individual but maintains the team mentality in and out of the water.
“It’s a very individual sport,” Steen said.
“But there is a lot of support from the team,” Kaylor said, “We all know how hard it is to be in the pool. I’ve never appreciated oxygen more.”
Last year, the Fire was successful in their season. Senior Madeline Bruce was ranked in the conference’s top 10 in two categories for her individual times. In the women’s 1,000 freestyle she was ranked eighth with a time of 11:32.26 and in the women’s 200 butterfly ranked sixth with a time of 2:20.36.
Three men’s relay teams were top 10 ranked in the conference last season as well. In the 200M, 400M and 800M. The Fire looks to utilize the talent from last year and carry it into this season and strive for success.
Knox men’s and women’s swimming will travel to Grinnell College for the Pioneer Classic on Dec. 1 and 2.