Swimmer honored at WIAC Championships

John Paul Czerwinski, Assistant Sports Editor

The Warhawk men and women’s swimming and diving teams both placed third at the WIAC Swimming and Diving Championships at the Schroeder Aquatic Center in Brown Deer Feb. 18 to wrap up their 2016-17 seasons.

The Warhawk men finished with 656 points, while the women tallied 731. UW-Stevens Point claimed the men’s championship with 971.50 points, while UW-La Crosse won the women’s championship with 864 points.

The women had a strong finish to their season, including 16 different top three finishes at the championships.

“I know us seniors really wanted to end our final meet with a championship, but we knew it was going to be a battle between La-Crosse and Eau-Claire,” senior Grace Devine said. “We performed well this weekend. What I am exceptionally proud of is how we rally behind one another. Every race, our team would be on their feet and going crazy. It’s pretty amazing to be waiting for your event and to look to the bleachers and see everybody cheering you on.”

Devine, along with the team of sophomore Erin Hawker and seniors Sarah Arteaga and  Margaret Lotzer placed second in the 800-yard freestyle relay with a time of 7:48.10.

“We were so excited about second place and earning that silver medal,” Devine said. “We didn’t want to set any expectations coming into the race so we could swim a lot more care-free.”

Devine and Arteaga also claimed third place in the 400-yard freestyle with the help of  junior Michaela Matthys and sophomore Vada Williams. The four of them recorded a time of 3:34.81.

Although the men’s team only managed a third place conference finish this season, senior Josh Kanute said a lot more can be taken from the season.

“I was very happy with how the team finished this season,” Kanute said. “We may have not reached the end goal of a conference championship, but this team powered through a lot of setbacks. We stayed positive at times when many would have given up. Through all of that, we still had exceptional swims and a lot of fast times that exceeded people’s individual goals and to me that’s the most important.”

Kanute finished his career with a fifth place finish in the 200-yard butterfly, sixth place finish in the 200-yard freestyle and seventh in the 500-yard freestyle.

“The emotions after the last race were definitely in full-effect,  touching the last wall ended my last race of a 17 year swim career,” Kanute said. “It didn’t really set in before that race. But I shook hands with my 200 butterfly competitor Ryan Young of Eau Claire, who I swam next to at conference four years in a row, he made the comment ‘That’s it!’, and it just hit me.”

Senior Dan Bielski had a strong performance in his final meet for the men, as he was runner-up in the 200-meter backstroke finishing with a mark of 1:53.65. Bielski also finished second in the 100-meter backstroke with a time of 50.69.

The Warhawks also honored former ‘Hawks swimmer Spencer Twining who passed away prior to the season’s beginning. The ‘Hawks heavily dedicated their season of work to Twining this season. The competitors also honored Twining, wearing an ‘STrong’ t-shirt in his honor.

“One of our team members painted a sign that said ‘Forever STrong’ and had it hanging by our spot all weekend,” Devine said. “All the other teams in the WIAC showed their support by wearing t-shirts that said ‘STrong’ on them. We can’t describe how much that meant to everybody.”

Although the Warhawks’ team season is complete, unofficial NCAA Championship qualifiers are going to be announced via press release on NCAA.com at 4 p.m. on Feb. 22.