The Truman State women’s swim team has carried the title of 2016 GLVC champion for more than two weeks after a comeback Feb. 13 that put the ‘Dogs atop the GLVC podium for the first time in school history.
Entering the final day of competition down by 52.5 points, the Bulldogs rallied past Drury University, the nationally ranked two-time defending GLVC champions for a 946.5-910 finish. Four Bulldogs placed in the top five of the 100 freestyle and 200 backstroke, and six Bulldogs finished in the top 15 spots of the 1650 freestyle. These three events gave Truman a 32-point cushion going into the meet’s final event — the 4×100 freestyle relay — during which the ‘Dogs broke Drury’s existing GLVC record by .31 seconds.
The Bulldogs finished second in the GLVC Championships behind the Panthers a year ago, but senior captain Ashley Shanel says the team did not want to experience the same feeling again this year.
“Last year, I think everyone knew that we had the potential to at least put up a fight against Drury, which we kind of did, but we knew that there were things we needed to change going into this year,” Shanel says. “It was like everyone had a NCAA Div. II Swimming & Diving Chamchip on their shoulder, and so everyone was coming to practice and doing the work and putting in extra time.”
Shanel has been a team captain for three years. Although Shanel will not be competing in Indianapolis for nationals next week, Head Coach Ed Pretre says she has been one of the main swimmers who have kept the team together. Pretre says despite not swimming in the event for five years, Shanel was one of the Bulldogs’ six top finishers in the 1650 freestyle. Pretre says he has never seen such a complete team effort to win out of all the championships he has attended. He says members of the team sacrificed their individual times to collectively take down the No. 2 Div. II team in the country.
“I think what makes this victory even sweeter for us is no one gave us a chance,” Pretre says. “No one expected us [to win]. Drury didn’t. But we were the only ones to believe in ourselves.”
Pretre, who was voted the 2016 GLVC Coach of the Year, says he credits the student athletes for their perseverance throughout the season. The swimmers sported their very own “Darth Dog” shirts that read “I find your lack of faith disturbing,” which Pretre says gave the team motivation.
The women’s team will be making its 28th appearance at the national meet and have an opportunity to add the program’s eighth NCAA title to this season’s resumé. The NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships will begin March 9 and end March 12 in Indianapolis. Live coverage of the meet can be found at NCAA.com.
To read more about the swim team and their journey to the NCAA championships, pick up a copy of this week’s Index or click here to read the full story on Issuu.