Depth proves to be swimming’s Achilles’ heel in inaugural season
The Augustana swimming team has some solid athletes. It just doesn’t have the numbers to compete yet.
That’s the sentiment among the swimmers and coaches seven meets and nearly three months into the Vikings’ first season.
Augustana has 17 swimmers. All but two are freshman. Teams expected to compete for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title in February have rosters that dwarf that of the Vikings. Minnesota State-Mankato has 35 swimmers and divers. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State-Moorhead each have 45.
“With the team placing, obviously we want to be high,” head coach Lindsie Micko said. “But we know that with not as many girls, we’re going to be fighting.”
The lack of numbers has forced Augustana to put swimmers in back-to-back events in certain dual meets, which Micko said isn’t ideal but comes with the territory of a first-year program.
“Being a young, new team, we didn’t expect to compete with the bigger teams that have 40-plus girls,” freshman Destini Oehlertz said. “We might not be able to compete at a team level, but individually we can compete. That’s what’s getting us through—we’re just as good as [other teams], but we just don’t have the numbers.”
Augustana has had its moments in team competition, though. The Vikings swept their first meet of the season on Oct. 7, a triangular against the University of Mary and Northern State. They swept another triangular Nov. 5 before winning the Morningside Invitational Nov. 12.
“I feel that sometimes schools underestimate us because of the youth of the program,” sophomore Julie DeWitt said. “We just have to show up and try to prove them wrong.”
Micko said there are several individuals who have shown a lot of potential, including Oehlertz and freshmen Jojo Lohner and Emma Miller. They have all won at least 10 races this season, with Oehlertz leading the team with 15 race wins including relays. Micko also said Linzie Kreizel, Hannah Gonzalez, Julia Robberstad and Grace Porter have had strong campaigns.
Augustana’s focus is now the Rochester Invitational Dec. 2-4. The Vikings will take a week-and-a-half off from competing prior to that meet. Having well-rested swimmers will give Micko a bearing on where her athletes are performance-wise, she said.
“We’re at a point right now where we just have to train, train, train,” Oehlertz said. “We don’t really see times drop until midseason. Right now it’s just a mental game to keep ourselves going, and we’ll see results later.”
As the Vikings forge through the program’s first season, they learn to make adjustments on the fly. But the swimming portion is easy.
“The swimming part is just very natural to them,” Micko said. “Even though everything is the first time for our program, it’s all things they’ve been doing since they were little girls—going to practices, going to meets, those things are all the same.”
And a new experience for one is a new experience for all.
“I think the fact that [most of us] were freshmen coming into it helped us hit the ground running,” Kreizel said. “All of us are figuring out our first year of college. We’re all figuring out how to do the whole college swimming thing.”
For some, that bond is the glue.
“I wouldn’t be able to get through it without [my friends],” Gonzalez said.