The men's and women's swim teams showed promising signs in January and early February with a combined second-place finish, consistently impressive individual performances, and high goals set on leaving a mark at the UAA championships. Yet at the championships, the swimmers were unable to accumulate many points due to their small team sizes, and both the men and women finished in eighth place in the eight-team field.
The teams did not suffer for a lack of individual effort. School records fell left and right at the hands of third-year Emma Eriksson in the 100-yard (1:02.59) and 200-yard (2:15.84) backstroke, second-year Emily Testa in the 200-yard individual medley (2:16.99), and Dan Timke in the 500-yard freestyle (4:51.15). The women's 400-yard (3:47.96) and 800-yard (8:10.56) freestyle relays set new Chicago marks as well.
On the men's side, third-year Joe Nagy received top honors, qualifying for the NCAA Division III championships next month. His 100-yard breaststroke run (58.53) this past weekend earned him All-UAA honors. He has chosen, however, to forego the invitation to NCAA competition: "NCAA championships are too far away from now--almost a month and a half--and I can't imagine training by myself for that long. The other teams in Division III have more people that will be going to nationals, and therefore those swimmers can train with each other. It is very difficult, mentally, to push yourself in practice by yourself with no one swimming next to you," Nagy said.
All things considered, the swimmers feel the 2002-2003 season was a success for the program. With all but one swimmer set to return next year, the teams will be able to build on the progress they made this year instead of having to start from scratch.
"Considering these conditions, I think that the team did very well in overcoming such incredible obstacles. It is not easy for anyone to get up at 5 a.m. every morning for five months. I give a lot of credit to all my teammates who persevered through these tough conditions. Even with such a small team, a quarter of the size of the teams at UAAs, we still scored more than a quarter of the points of other teams showing how strong we are in spite of our low numbers," Eriksson said.
"Coming into the season we all knew what we were facing and we all made the best of it. Now we only have the best--a new pool and bigger team--to look forward to next year."
For the 2003-2004 season, the swimming teams will be practicing and competing at the soon-to-be-completed Ratner Center. This year, the swimmers had to practice at a site about 50 blocks off campus at Chicago State University, which put tremendous strain on the schedules of the swimmers.
"Next season is going to be amazing. The UAA and Division III swimming programs will not know what hit them this time next year. With the new pool we will be able to have a much larger team and improve on both our depth and overall quality. I am personally looking forward to having more teammates to train with over the next season, but I am also glad that we have a solid foundation of 10 swimmers to build on," Eriksson said.
The Myers-McLoraine pool in the Ratner Center will be Olympic size, measuring 50-by-25 meters with high and low diving boards at both ends of the pool. In addition to being able to attract more swimmers with the more convenient and luxurious facility, Chicago will now be able to boast diving teams instead of voiding those points in competition. They now also hope to get more fan support, which is difficult to come by with no home meets. The Ratner Center will hold 400 spectators for swimming.
"We are a small but strong group. I feel the amount and level of training the swimmers go through each morning is not recognized by our school. They are very hard-working individuals, and I am very impressed by their commitment to the sport because it is indeed a very brutal one," Nagy said.
"Next year at Emory [the site of the UAA Championships], it will be so much fun to see the expressions on all the teams' faces when we walk out with a team four times the size," Eriksson said. "Not only will we be able to beat them in the pool, but we will also finally have enough members on the team to out-cheer all the other teams and be the loudest team at UAAs."
Swimming competition for the 2003-2004 season will begin in early November of the next academic year.