National meet is head coach’s last, team brings home two all-american titles

The men’s and women’s swim and dive teams compete at nationals over spring break



Story by Katy Macek, Copy Editor

While other UW-Eau Claire students were enjoying spring break, the men’s and women’s swim and dive teams headed to nationals in Indianapolis to watch a select number of their teammates compete, two of which took home All-American titles.

Senior Alex Card tied for third place in the 200-meter breaststroke on the last day of the competition, and broke the school record he set last year with a time of 1:59:37.

On the third day of the competition, Card took fifth in the preliminaries 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 55.50 seconds.

The 200-meter and 100-meter breaststroke marked two All-American finishes for Card, bringing his college career total up to six.

Overall, the men’s team finished in 27th out of 51 and women’s 28th.

Sophomore diver Sara Axness took home two other All-American titles after coming in tenth place on the 3-meter dive and fourth place on the 1-meter.

It had been three years since Axness said she had been on a competitive swim team and this was her first time ever going to nationals. But she said she treated it like every other competition she’s been in.

“I know it sounds selfish, but you don’t look at what everybody’s doing because that can really get into your head,” she said. “You just have to really focus on yourself and doing things the best that you can do them.”

On top of only having one year of training, Axness said her diving coach was not able to make it to nationals after a family emergency.

Thinking on their feet, Axness said she had her boyfriend text her diving coach during the meets to get advice. He signaled advice from her coach before each dive while in the stands.

“It worked out really well, considering the circumstances,” Axness said. “Not an ideal way to go into a meet, but we definitely made it work and next year can only get better.”

Junior Allison Hable, who swims mostly sprint freestyle, also went to nationals and after swimming the first day of preliminaries took 18th place, qualifying her as an alternative for finals.

Hable said it was an honor for her just to qualify for nationals, and her goal this year was just to make it that far.

Even though she didn’t win any medals, she said she learned from the experience.

“It set me up a lot for next year,” she said. “My coaches have great ideas and expectations on what we can do next year to improve and go again.”

Art Brandt, who has been the head coach of the team for 11 years, said this will be the last year he coaches the team, so he was glad to see them go to nationals one more time.

“The results were outstanding,” he said. “Four All-American performances. Card in the two breast strokes and Sara in the one and three meter diving, and Ali Hable just missed.”

For him, he said this was more than just a competition but a way to leave behind the swimming family he has spent the last 11 years being a part of.

“It’s time for my family to come first,” he said. “Swimming family is pretty important, but I need to spend some more time with my wife.”

While that may be the case, Brandt said he will continue teaching in the special education department at Eau Claire, and plans to attend several of the home meets when he can.