With the 2012 NCAA Div. II mens and womens swimming championships in the books, seven Truman State swimmers added all-American awards to their final chapter of the 2011-2012 season.
For his first year with the program, Ed Pretre, Truman head swimming coach, said his squad was determined to make this year about more than just rebuilding.
“This team is such a resilient team,” Pretre said, “This year has been very tough, but very rewarding and it is because of the determination this team showed throughout the entire season.”
Seven swimmers prevailed through the conference meet and journeyed to the NCAA Championships in Mansfield, Texas last week — senior Jessica Jenkot, juniors Jerod Simek and Taylor Birsa, freshman Abby Hempen and sophomores Margaux Kent, Casey Jepsen and Beth Eyanson.
The lone swimmer on the men’s side, Simek capped off another year at the pinnacle of the collegiate swimming world with two 10th place finishes in both the 1,000-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle events, bumping his career all-American total to seven. Simek said his main focus was to earn a top eight finish, but settled for a career best time and 10th place instead.
“Every year’s meet presents new challenges and every person is faster than they were before,” he said.
Simek said he was satisfied overall with his 2012 results after what he called a disappointing 2011 finish, during which he didn’t finish in the top 10.
For the women, Hempen took home Truman’s top finish at the meet with her 7th-place in the 200-meter breaststroke. Hempen also earned all-American status as a member of the women’s 400-meter medley relay, which also included Jepsen, Eyanson and Jenkot.
Jenkot didn’t disappoint during her final swim on the national stage. She anchored the relay teams and ran her total to six career all-American awards. Jenkot said the team’s success this year is nothing short of incredible, considering its situation coming into the season.
“Poor recruiting from our old coaches really led us into a bad situation, and I am extremely proud of the way our team came together and outperformed expectations at the end of the season,” Jenkot said.
Jenkot said the recent cuts to the swimming programs, as well as a lack of financial support from the athletic director, led to what she considers to be an individual-based criteria for success. The winner of a national championship her freshman season, Jenkot said she has seen a steady decline in overall team performance during the last four years, but the program has a lot of potential moving forward.
Pretre said he evaluates performance based on how players improve each year. Looking ahead, Pretre said the biggest gains for the program have to be made outside the pool because strength training and effort in the weight room are what separates the Bulldogs from an even better performance during 2013.
“There’s no limit to what the program can do the next couple of years,” Pretre said. “The women will get some fantastic young swimmers in the fall with a chance to be in the top 15 in the country, while the men should be able to crack the top 20 mark in the nation.”