The Gustavus swimming and diving team is back for what they believe will be another successful season. The season began on a strong note with the return of upperclassmen, as well as the welcoming of new swimmers and divers. There were many new swimmers who have committed to being a part of the team this year. The attendance has made teammates and coaches very excited for this season.
“The start of the season has gone well. Practices have had a great environment, with everyone being enthusiastic, encouraging, positive and uplifting. Each practice, we get broken down further, but at the same time, we get built up by our teammates: it makes for a pretty cool atmosphere,” Senior Zack Gardner said.
Last year, the men’s team placed fourth at the MIAC Conference Championship meet. While the men were disappointed in their finish, they remain optimistic this upcoming season with their goal of moving up in standings this year.
The women finished their last season on a different note, claiming their fourth straight MIAC Conference Championship. The women have their eyes set on more success this year, ranking in the top ten in the nation, along with reclaiming the MIAC trophy for the fifth straight year.
The swimmers spend a great deal of time together, both in and out of the pool. From eating in the Caf together to spending time hanging out and getting to know each other, the Gustie swimmers are a very tight knit group. They are a constant presence around campus. Their motto, “One team, one family” is not just a motto to them. The team holds to this motto as a swimmer’s creed, doing everything they can to emphasize team, family, and fun.
“Every swimmer matters, and their ability is a significant part of the team as a whole. We talk about how we want to be remembered. We want to be known for how we acted, rather than how we placed. We measure our success on trials and enjoying each other’s company. We talk about how to be good teammates. You may not always agree with other’s choices, but our differences really connect us and we have developed a big group trust,” Head Coach Jon Carlson said.
“This team is like a family to all of us. It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you are, you cheer for your teammates. We all are working together to complete our common goal, and we need to push one another in order to do so,” Junior Kayla Hutsell said.
The Gustavus Swimming and Diving program has attracted many swimmers across the nation both for their success, as well as their team atmosphere. There have been a few students over the years that have transferred from other top swimming programs, including Division I schools, in order to swim at Gustavus. The swimmers and divers who have transferred have various reasons for doing so, but most, if not all, seek the culture the Gusties have created.
“Here, I feel welcomed. I have a fantastic coaching staff that gives me the feedback and coaching that I need and a family I never dreamed of having,” Hutsell said.
The team members have also been able to overcome tragedy and help each other both in and out of the pool. Last season, fellow swimmer Grace Goblirsch was diagnosed with Leukemia. Over the course of the 2012-2013 season, the Gustie swimmers not only supported their teammate, but were inspired by her strength, which started the “Race for Grace” campaign. Goblirsch recently passed away, but Coach Carlson emphasized that she is still is a presence on the team.
“Grace will live on forever in our minds, hearts, and on this team. The best description I have is not only do we Race for Grace, but we Live for Grace. This team remembers everything Grace was and we continue to try our best to exemplify that in our everyday lives. She will be remembered forever as an amazing woman, friend, and teammate,” Gardner said.
Despite difficult times, the Gustie swimmers remain strong as a family and focused as a team when it comes to both swimming and life. Their ability to have fun and work together has led to their success over the years, as well as a coaching staff who feel dedicated to making sure every swimmer finds success.
“I feel that I owe them everything as a coach to help them reach their potential,” Coach Carlson said.
“This team will be successful if we stick together. If we can continue to be a family in and out of the water, nothing and no one can stop us,” Gardner said.