By Adam Reed
Nov. 3, 2015
The UW-Whitewater swimming and diving team was up to its usual tricks on Halloween, treating fans to a strong showing in its first meet of the year versus visiting Luther College [Iowa]. The team’s juniors dominated the competition.
Missack leads men to victory
The men’s team was led by the performance of sophomore Steven Missack, who won both the 200-yard freestyle and the 500-yard freestyle events with times of 1:49.36 and 5:05.81 respectively.
Senior Keefer Kuhl of Kenosha, Wisconsin, won both diving events for the Warhawks, finishing the 1-meter dive with a score of 246, and the 3-meter dive with a score of 239.
Keefer is one of only two returning seniors for the squad, the other being Riley Maher from Illinois.
“We don’t have many seniors,” head coach Joel Rollings said. “We have a really solid junior class. So, we’re a little bit top heavy in that. We’re kind-of obviously a little bit worried, not about next year but the year after that.”
One of those juniors, Paul Hill, had some big contributions against Luther. Hill won the 50-yard freestyle, and also placed third in the 100-yard freestyle.
“Joel [Rollins] and [assistant coach] Alex Colton gave us speeches about how in our junior year we’ll have to step up.” Senior captain Josh Kanute said. “I think a lot of us did rise to the challenge and it’s going well. The junior class is one of the bigger ones so it has been a lot of fun being a part of that.”
Adding talent to the roster is a constant process, and one of the most important factors in the teams continuing success, according to Rollins.
“It’s all about recruiting, all the time,” Rollings said. “And making sure that you keep bringing the talent in that’s going to help you keep moving the bar up.”
Rollings said that not only is recruiting a huge challenge, but the team has also had to battle health concerns to start the year.
“We have a lot of people that are sick and injured,” Rollings said. “We were down probably like four or five men…It put a lot of people in positions where they had to race for us to win. There was going to be a lot of tight races [against Luther College], and they stepped up and exceeded what I was hoping to do.”
This year, the men’s team will be led by Kanute and junior captain Alex Gidlow. Gidlow is a sprint swimmer for the Warhawks, and Kanute will be competing primarily in mid-distance events.
“They’re [the team captains] really good,” Rollings said. “Sometimes as a coach you can say some things and it takes a peer to re-explain it and get people to understand why we’re doing things a certain way…It’s nice to have someone that’s had success in the program and has bought in.”
In addition to the veteran leadership, Rollings said the younger athletes have a lot of promise. Rollings highlighted three freshmen as having potential to be key contributors including Sam Douglass, Chandler Lewis and Peter Loftus. Rollings said that Loftus has already begun to prove his worth with a strong performance against Luther.
“We have a lot of new players this year,” Kanute said. “Joel [Rollings] is an awesome recruiter, and we’ve just been getting more and more talent each year. [The new players] are exceeding expectations and we are already doing well at meets because of them. A lot of them are going to play key parts in the relays.”
Women dominate short races
The women’s team also performed well versus Luther, winning the 50-yard, 100-yard, 200-yard and 500-yard freestyle events, and placing top five in several others.
Rollings said the goal for the women’s team this year is a complete team effort. He believes the team has all the pieces necessary to win the conference title this year, and is hoping that the team is able to make it back to nationals.
“We could end up winning the conference this year,” Rollings said. “It’s a long way away, and there’s a lot of work between now and then. The women could come in first, or they could come in second or third…it really depends on what they start doing now for training and how they gel as a team as the season goes on.”
The women’s team has a similar makeup to the men’s, with a strong junior class led by Margaret Lotzer and Grace Devine. Lotzer took the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:20.36, and Devine won the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 56.11.
The women’s team has only four returning seniors, including captains Autumn Mulgrew and Sierra Becker. One of the other seniors, Stacey Kincade, finished first place in the 1000-yard freestyle, with a time of 11:05.46.
The underclassmen also contributed, with freshman Vada Williams winning the 50-yard freestyle, freshman Erin Hawker winning the 200-yard freestyle and sophomore Michaela Matthys placing first in both the 100-yard butterfly and the 100-yard breaststroke.
Rollings said the challenges of sickness have affected the women’s team as well, with at least 4 athletes missing the meet with Luther due to illness.
“The outbreak of mumps, we get mono, we get the flu virus starting to kick up,” Rollings said. “Our athletes are right on the campus with everybody else so they are actually more likely to get sick because they are training so hard all the time. So trying to get everyone back to health will be really good.”
According to Kanute, it has yet to take a huge toll and feels this year is no different than any other in that regard.
“I think we are all pretty confident that those guys [both male and female athletes] are doing what they need to do to get healthy again,” Kanute said. “It’s pretty early in the season right now, and I think injuries like that just kind-of happen.”
Rollings said he is hopeful both teams can find a way to get healthy before the Phoenix 1-2-3 meet on Nov. 6 and 7.