Out to make a splash

After the alumni intrasquad meet last Saturday at the McPhee Physical Education Center, the UW-Eau Claire swimming and diving team has officially started its season.

Head coach Art Brandt, who is in his 11th year of coaching both teams, said while the intrasquad meet isn’t a good indicator of the team itself because it is a laid back event, there are still  many things the team members get out of it.

“The most important part for me for the alumni weekend is bringing parents together for the first time, the alumni mingling with the present team, and just making sure everything works,” Brandt said.

While it isn’t very competitive, Brandt said, it does give new freshmen the chance to talk to alumni and see what it’s like to swim with the team.

As for the overall outlook team, Brandt said there is definite room for improvement, but that is to be expected at the beginning of the year, and he sees it as a good thing.

“Typically, by the end of the season, we’re right there,” Brandt said. “As a coach, I’ve learned to be patient with what we can do.”

Still, Brandt has begun to push the athletes a little bit harder at the beginning of the season than usual.

Jake McDade, a junior distance swimmer on the men’s team, said even though the practices are tough, it’s worth it, because he said there is potential for a good year.

“This year they’ve been really working us hard in the pool, more so than we ever have, and everyone’s exhausted, but it’s definitely showing it,” McDade said. “It’s looking better already.”

They practice every weekday afternoon for two hours, and have just begun to do morning practices three days a week, McDade said.

One thing McDade said he is looking forward to this year is having a backstroke component of the men’s team again. He said in the previous years they haven’t had any men who compete in backstroke, but it will be back this year, which will add numbers in relays.

Senior Emily Behrens, who swims mostly 100 and 200 meter breaststroke, also said the practices are demanding but necessary.

“We’ve got to start off somewhere, and you can’t take it too easy in the beginning, otherwise you’re going to get nowhere,” Behrens said.

After just a few weeks of practice, Behrens said she is feeling confident in the team and has a lot of expectations for the upcoming year.

“I personally think that both our men’s and women’s team are really strong this year,” Behrens said. “I also think that the women’s team has a shot at winning conference, as long as everyone does what they’re expected.”

These expectations aren’t just for the swimmers. Behrens also said the diving team looks especially good this year, and is excited to see how far they can go.

This year the diving team consists of 12 members, nine women and three men, which Brandt said isn’t typical, but feels confident about it because divers do a lot for their meets and the program in general.

The women’s team will kick off their first official meet against Mankato (Minn.) this Friday at McPhee. The first meet for both the men and women will be Oct. 26 against UW-Stevens Point.