Autumn Zierman – Staff Writer
With the swim and dive season already heavily underway and restrictions heavily in place on competition and travel, the Gustavus Swim and Dive team spent last Saturday, February 13, preparing for end-of-season with another Intra-squad meet. While practicing almost every day a week, twice a day, certainly gears the team up for competition, Intra-squad meets allow the simulation of an actual competition without the risks of travel and visitation of other schools.
“Intra-squad meets have been, personally, fun, but definitely less competitive,” Senior Amelia Bjorklund said.
Even without the competition, these meets have been able to boost team morale, which had been suffering up until the point that the end of season goals were decided.
“A good turning point in team morale was having a definitive plan for the end of season. Mentally the team has been preparing since the end of October but hadn’t previously had a date to train for,” Head Swim and Dive Coach Jon Carlson said.
Despite having less overall competitive meet opportunities than other sports at Gustavus, and having been deprived of a Sections this year, having an end goal has boosted spirits all around.
The end of season for Swim and Dive will come in the form of hosting a competitive meet with St. Thomas for the Women’s team and a conglomeration of other teams that includes St. Thomas for the Men’s team. This will also be the last competitive meet that St. Thomas swims in Division III in the MIAC, and the Gusties are determined to send them off properly.
“One of my goals this year is to beat St. Thomas, for sure, especially because it will be their last time swimming in D3,” Bjorklund said.
During and after practice encouragements to the team in the form of burns on St. Thomas decorated the whiteboard in the Gustavus pool area.
While beating out St. Thomas is assuredly one of the goals driving the Swimmers and Divers to practice hard, it is by no means the sole motivator. The Men’s Swim and Dive team is also working to defend their right to claim of Section Champion, which they have held two years in a row.
“You don’t really need to compete to discover who is performing the best. You can look up at the scores and see where you are matching with everyone else in the section,” Head Coach Carlson said.
“I’d like to leave this team, as a senior, in the position to defend our Section Championship next year,” Senior Joshua Muntifering said.
With the goal of dynasty securement in mind, this year’s seniors have been leading the team in morale and attitude.
“Our team has an emphasis on team dynamics, usually we would be able to spend a ton of time on it, but with the pandemic it has been a lot harder. The seniors and upperclassmen pick up the slack with a lot of quality team modeling,” Head Coach Jon Carlson said.
Even in the vestiges of their final year on the team, upperclassmen have been devoting their time to keeping the team in high spirits.
“We are trying to make the best of the season, even though it is frustrating. We have been hosting online Zoom meetings to keep morale up, but we all know those aren’t as fun. At our Intra-squad meets, even without most observers, we try and make it hype by cheering each other on,” Senior Katherine Brostrom said.
“It’s been an absolute rollercoaster, with starts and stops and false positives on tests, but right now it is positively trending up,” Bjorklund said.
Like all other athletic teams, Swim and Dive have been affected by the Gustavus COVID policies, including weekly testing. Overall the measures have kept people safe and able to practice, though there have been some bumps in the path with false positive results.
“COVID has been a lot, with so many different feelings in the last month and a half, and false positive tests, but we leave it outside the pool and it’s like family here,” Bjorklund said.
Like many other sports teams, Swim and Dive has conquered the ups and downs of the year with determination to see it through to the end.
On end of season goals, consensus is broadly the strong desire to send St. Thomas out of Division III with a defeat on it’s shoulders.
“The goal is to have everyone swim fast, it really comes down to that. There is no championship, but we can always compare times,” Head Coach Carlson said.
“They like to race,” Assistant Coach Alex Lindstrom said, an opportunity that Swim and Dive will have this Sunday, going up against St. Benedict’s and St John’s for the Men’s and Women’s teams respectively with all of Gustavus, from the metaphorical sidelines, cheering them on.