Every season is about growth for the Augustana women’s swimming team.
Head coach Lindsie Micko began planning the program during the 2015-2016 school year, and last year the team found success despite being in its infancy.
The team qualified two women—current sophomores Taylor Beagle and Kelsey Gilbert—to the NCAA national meet last year.
For Micko, this marked a huge step from where the team started.
“When I started, the most important thing was to get kids here that wanted to swim,” she said. “That was the priority, trying to get enough bodies to put together a competitive team.”
Getting buy-in from recruits was a struggle. Not everyone was interested in growing a program from scratch.
Still, Micko put together a team of 17 women who claimed a fifth-place showing at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference meet in their inaugural season.
A year later, the team recorded the fourth highest team score for the conference meet. Beagle, Gilbert and Emma Miller swept the top three spots in the 1000-yard freestyle event.
“Still being very young, only freshmen and sophomores, you still don’t know what to expect,” Micko said about her expectations from last year. “I thought maybe at the beginning of the year we could take kids to NCAA and we ended up taking two, which is huge.”
Both Beagle and Gilbert earned marks for Augustana at the national meet—a program first. In the 1650-yard freestyle, they recorded the 21st and 34th fastest times in the meet. They also competed in the 500-yard freestyle finishing 31 and 45 overall.
The goal is to build off those results in the 2018-2019 season.
“I just want to continue to improve and get stronger,” Beagle said. “We want to stay competitive with some of the schools that gave us trouble last year and carry that momentum into the conference.”
This year, that includes competing in a dual meet against South Dakota State University, the first time the program will face a Division I school.
“We’re slowly but surely moving up, getting better the way I want us to get better,” Micko said. “My goal is really to continue our upward progress both at the conference level and NCAA level, really just kind of see where we’re at.”
The team will depend on the experience of Beagle, Gilbert, Miller, Destini Oehlertz, and Maddie Szeremet this season. The goal is to bring other swimmers to that level and try to create depth on a young team.
“It’s really fun to see how well we mesh together and work together,” Beagle said. “We try to keep everything high energy.”
Each week the swimmers are challenged by six days of swimming—half of which come before 6 a.m.—and two or three weightlifting sessions.
The work is challenging and except for a week-long break during mid-season and championship season, it makes the team constantly sore and tired.
“It’s a grueling long season,” Beagle said. “Swimming is just constant conditioning, and it can be really taxing on you mentally and physically.”
The hard work will pay off in competitions, though.
“It’s all about getting your hand on the wall first,” Micko said.
“In terms of what the clock says, the times we’re really looking forward to [are] a mid-season meet where they’ll get to rest and put their fast suits on, our conference meet, and then NCAAs.”
The team has already opened its season with a successful performance in a triangular on Oct. 5 and 6 in Sioux Falls at the Midco Aquatic Center. During the meet the Vikings outperformed both the University of Mary and Northern State University, beating the schools 246 to 180 and 292 to 116, respectively.
The team will travel to Brookings on Friday, Oct. 19 to compete in a triangular against SDSU and the University of Mary. The event begins at 5 p.m.
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