Augustana swim to graduate first-ever senior class

On April 20 of 2015, Augustana announced that it would be adding women’s swimming as a sponsored sport. It became the 19th varsity sport at Augustana and would begin competition in 2016-17. 

“As an institution, we feel this addition is a perfect fit for our community and regional footprint,” then-athletic director Slade Larscheid said. “We also look forward to the opportunities this will bring for female student-athletes to represent Augustana and receive a championship experience both academically and athletically.”

Since then, the team has earned multiple accolades including NSIC Freshman of the Year, NSIC Swimmer of the Year and Academic All-American. This year they earned their first-ever National Top-25 ranking as well as having two swimmers honored as CSCAA All-Americans. 

Senior Destini Oehlertz earned the honor in the 100-free while junior Taylor Beagle swam her way to an All-American spot in the 1000-free and 1650-free. Both swimmers earned an invite to the 2020 NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships before it was cut short due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Oehlertz is one of six seniors  who make up the team’s first-ever graduating class. The others include Abby Rubado, Paige Knight, Emma Miller, Maggie Oberg and Linzie Kreizel. 

Being a part of a first-year program is what pushed Kreizel to come to Augustana. 

“I knew I wanted to continue swimming throughout college, so getting to do that and be one of the people who would help establish a program was really exciting,” Kreizel said.

In its first year, the team earned fifth-place at the NSIC Championships; since then, it has earned three straight fourth-place finishes. In the last four years, leadership and depth have helped the team progress. 

“Usually, incoming freshmen have upperclassmen to guide and help them through college life and workouts, but we didn’t,” Oberg said. “We were all ‘winging it’ as best as we could. Now we’ve had every opportunity to step into leadership roles and be good teammates and hopefully [that] is something we’ve helped inspire those younger than us to continue with.”

Members of the team found that the team’s growth in numbers provided them with opportunities to focus more on individual events.

“With every passing year, we would add members to the team, which grew the talent and abilities of every swimmer,” Kreizel said. “With more depth came the option to specialize in certain events rather than swim a mix of everything.” 

On Jan. 11, the swim team celebrated the senior class with its first-ever Senior Day during a meet against Southwest Minnesota State University. Augustana won the meet 199-57 and got first place in 13 of the 14 events. 

“Since the beginning of the swim program, the seniors have built a team culture I’m proud to be a part of,” sophomore Alysse Grohs said. “Our senior class may be small, but they really paved the way and showed what leadership means for Augie swim.” 

Looking to the future, the seniors will now have to tackle life beyond college. Some of the seniors  hope to begin their careers while others are going to be moving further along in their education. 

“I’m looking to pursue a career in fitness management,” Kreizel said. “Come May, I’ll be a certified personal trainer and have my bachelor’s degrees in business administration and art. COVID-19 permitting, I’m hoping to dive right into a job post-graduation.” 

“My plans post-graduation are to attend SDSU for my masters in clinical mental health counseling,” Oberg said. “As for post-collegiate athletics, it’s been different to ease into a new routine — one with less vigor and more naps. I have loved my time swimming here, but I am excited to get the opportunity to try new forms of exercise that I wasn’t able to during undergrad.”

Even though the seniors will be unable to celebrate graduation together and the run at a national championship for one of them was cut short, the impact they’ve made on the program will remain.


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