The men’s and women’s swim teams completed the first half of their 2019-20 season in early November.
The women’s team has started this season strong, winning its first seven duels. In addition to an undefeated record in duels, the women’s team captured a win in the Colorado College Tri-meet in October, marking its first victory of the year. Most recently the girls team traveled to the University of Missouri-Columbia to compete in the 2019 Mizzou Invite against nine Div. I opponents and two Div. II opponents. The Bulldogs placed ninth out of the 13 teams at the meet, but placed behind only one Div. II team and finished better than three Div. I opponents: the University of Kansas, the University of Cincinnati and Iowa State University.
When asked about the team’s performance up to this point, head coach Jerod Simek said this season has started differently than last year. Last season — Simek’s first as the full-time head coach of the Bulldogs — the women’s roster had just three seniors and nine incoming freshmen. Simek has credited his senior class, now a group of five, with setting the standard for this season’s incoming freshman class.
“[Captain] Kaylee Sisson is having a great senior season right now,” Simek said. “The leadership that the senior class is bringing in, making sure that people are staying positive has been the biggest difference this year. Everybody from top to bottom, senior to freshman, is wanting to make sure that this is a priority because they know that that’s what is going to lead to great swims.”
Sisson has been one of the Bulldogs’ most impactful players through the first half of the season according to her head coach. Simek believes that Sisson, a freestyle and backstroke specialist, has been one of the team’s most consistent swimmers, and has helped many of the underclassmen in their early days as Bulldogs. One of those underclassmen is sophomore Emma Brabham. Brabham has been one of the Bulldogs’ winningest swimmers in the 2019 season. Brabham is a jack-of-all-trades for the Bulldog’s squad, as she is one of only two athletes on the team that swims three strokes individually and also competes in the individual medley.
Simek believes that his team’s chemistry, willingness to sacrifice and commitment to each other is a large part of its early success. With a large senior class that is willing to lead, Simek said he hopes his team will continue to grow closer and ultimately improve in the water.
The men’s team has not been able to match the consistency of the women’s team at this point in the season. With an overall duel record of 3-3 and a loss at the Colorado Tri-meet the men’s team has been fighting to stay above water. Simek believes the loss of strong senior leadership might have been the reason the Bulldogs started poorly, but after maneuvering their way through the early stages of the season he is hopeful his team has learned how to compete at a high level.
“There has been a little bit of a learning curve,” Simek said. “It’s definitely been good to have Riley Olson. As a junior captain last year he was able to lead with [the seniors], and then taking that roll on this year without [the seniors].”
Simek believes that his team needs to execute race strategies if they hope to have success in the second half of their season. Simek says his team is often relaxed finishing races or approaching walls and to compete in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the fastest conference in Div. II swimming with five teams in the top 15, his team needs to power through and rely on their training to finish through the walls.
Both teams will return to action after their annual training trip to Florida over winter break. Simek plans on pushing his team over the training period in order to ensure they are both mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming conference and national championships. The men’s team will be back in action against the University of Missouri Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri, on Jan. 17. Just a day later the women’s team will travel to St. Louis to take on the University of Washington and put their undefeated duel record on the line.