This year the Swimming and Diving team is 33 strong, with 24 women and nine men participating.
Coach Jonathan Powers has instilled the idea of “you against yourself” into the minds of each swimmer, motivating each person to reach their full potential.
Powers promotes the communal aspect of the sport outside of the pool as well, pushing each athlete to dedicate themselves to their studies.
“I’ve got the dual role as a professor who coaches, so my emphasis is always on academics first,” Powers said, “Swimming is an individual sport, so you don’t have to be the fastest in the pool to get satisfaction.”
One of the ways Powers has been able to connect to his swimmers is through their shared experience.
“I didn’t go to college expecting to swim competitively, but I walked in on a water polo practice one day and eventually joined and they taught me swimming techniques. It was among the best decisions that I made in college,” Powers said.
The building of this inclusive culture has attracted a larger number of students to the team, some of whom are first time competitive swimmers.
This growth in first time swimmers, Powers explained, is mainly on the men’s side.
“I’ve got a small Men’s team. There are two swimmers abroad right now who swam competitively before Knox. Of the seven guys I have right now only three competed before this year.”
Sophomore Andrew Hind is one of the new swimmers, deciding to join the team after the Men’s Soccer season ended. Powers said that he has shown a great deal of motivation and is “showing some good times.”
Powers has encouraged each swimmer to focus on improving their own times during practice.
“The nice thing about swimming is that my goal for the swimmers is to swim fast at conference, to beat lifetime or season bests.”
This does not mean that each participant ignores their teammates. Quite the contrary, as Powers explains that the four divers on the team have needed to coach each other for most of the season.
“I can’t help the divers, but Bonnie Matheson, a senior, who unfortunately broke her wrists, has been helping on the sidelines, and they all kind of work together.”
Senior Benjamin Heichman agrees that the team-focus is a major part of the season. “Everybody likes to support one another, everybody is good friends with one another. I feel like more than most teams this one is built on working together and just having a good time together.”
Heichman explained that there are two types of meets the team has participated in this season, and that they are very different. The first type is a dual meet, where Heichman said that “There isn’t much pressure because it’s just you and four other people in a race.”
The other type of race is a big invite event, where Knox often faces off against 10 other schools. “[The meets] can be a little intimidating, though that’s where you can really shine,” Heichman said.
The Men’s team has been able to excel more at the dual meets, as their roster is too small to compete against larger teams.
“Though the Men’s team lends itself to smaller events, the Women’s team has managed its best times in relays and larger events,” sophomore Julia Steen said.
Steen highlighted the Women’s success, saying, “We’ve been doing a lot better than we usually have. We have been edging out other teams like Monmouth College (by 16 points) and Millikin University (by 3 points), and I think we have a chance at doing better than we have in recent years.”
Steen added that the whole team is excitedly waiting to see how the young members of the squad perform during the upcoming Midwest Conference meet.
For senior Madeline Bruce, the conference tournament will be incredibly bittersweet, as she dreads having to walk away from the sport. More than anything though, Bruce will find it hard to leave behind the team she has worked hard for, and the coach who has taught her so much.
“I can remember coming home from Monmouth and Jonathan [Powers] and I kept looking at each other. And he finally just said ‘You know I’m not gonna be able to look at the whole day of conference right?’, and I just said ‘I know.’”
Showing how much the team and Coach Powers have meant to her, Bruce will look to continue leading this team to a strong finish at the MWC tournament.
In the end, every member of the team will be racing against themselves, working hard to close out the season in a memorable way on a personal level, in turn helping the team on a wider scale. With Coach Powers guiding the team, both the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams will look to turn their strong communal culture into solid team finishes.