Truman State University’s swimming teams hosted their annual alumni meet Sept. 23 and their intrasquad meet the following day, marking the end of a week long stretch of athletic challenges to prepare the team for the season.
Alumnus Ben DeVilbiss returned after graduating last spring. DeVilbiss says he still swims a few times a week, but was in shock after having to sprint and race again.
“It’s great to come back and to see the team,” DeVilbiss says. “It’s fun. It’s a good opportunity to just come back and see where the team is going, see what they are doing and see if it’s still in good hands.”
Assistant Coach Jerod Simek says this year had nearly 100 percent attendance from the previous graduating class and a total of 14 returning alumni, compared to last year’s attendance of four alumni. Simek says this has become a tradition, and the alumni are making an effort to make it as successful as it used to be.
“It started just to kind of get our alumni a little more involved, and it’s been going for probably around the last 15-20 years,” Simek says. “It’s a nice little tradition and more of like a fun meet for alumni to come back and see the team and see what they are all about and what to expect for the year.”
The Bulldogs now look ahead to Oct. 7, when they will travel to the University of Missouri to race in the Show-Me Showdown. There will be about eight teams on both the men’s and women’s side, providing a good gauge to see where the team is and what needs to be improved or what is working well before conference meets start.
“With it being our first official meet, we want to just see where everyone is at and what are the things they do well and what are the things that may need a little more work on so that way [Head Coach] Ed [Pretre] and I are able to tailor our workouts towards those needs as we get into the next four or five meets,” Simek says.
A few returning swimmers — juniors Nikki Sisson and Will Shanel and senior Evyn Spencer — earned Pre-season All-American honors. Simek says these individuals will be high-impact athletes for Truman this year, along with junior Jamie Fitzpatrick and seniors Hannah Nicks and Alison Strickler.
The women were GLVC Champions last season and ranked 12th in the nation. Simek says the goal is to crack the top 5 this year and, if not, secure the top 10. On the men’s side, Simek says he sees great potential for this season.
“There were a lot of men who were very close to nationals, but we are hoping to get a few more individual men to go this year, if not some relays,” Simek says. “The 800 free relay has a shot with some of the people we have brought in and what we feel they can step up with, so we are hoping we have more of a presence at nationals on the men’s side this year,”
Until now, Simek says the swimmers have been conditioning their bodies into swim shape, and now they are able to work on speed. Workouts consist of dry land and pool workouts.
The alumni meet was part of a week of season preparation for the Bulldogs called the “Mafia Wars.” Simek says the week is full of physical competitions like a two-mile run, pull-up competition and more. The swim teams split into two halves, purple and white, and they could either win all the physical competitions to win the entire week or win a combination of the physical tests and intrasquad meet in order to win. He says the meet is worth 45 percent of the total points and the other events are worth a total of 55 percent.
The purple team pulled off the victory from the week and managed to win the intrasquad meet to count toward its total score. Freshman Kaylee Sisson says she enjoyed the week and says each team is still very supportive of one another.
“It’s really fun,” Sisson says. “I‘ve never done anything like Mafia Wars before, and it’s fun to be one team, but also split into two and have friendly competition. Even if we are doing a set where we are racing each other, purple team will still cheer for white team and vice versa because we are all still one team and we all have one goal in mind.”
The ‘Dogs have just over two weeks to shape up for season. The Show-Me Showdown will take place 1 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Mizzou Aquatic Center.