The men’s and women’s swim teams were in action recently at home for the final time this season. The Bulldogs welcomed Div. I opponent Saint Louis University to Pershing Arena for their annual senior day meet where the team honors the senior members in their last chance to compete in Kirksville. This year’s men’s and women’s teams both honored five athletes. The men’s seniors included freestyle swimmer Lliot Gieseke, backstroke/individual medley swimmer Brenden Harris, freestyle/butterfly stroke swimmer Justin King, intermediate medley/butterfly stroke/freestyle swimmer Austin Mayer and captain and freestyle swimmer Riley Olson. The women’s team celebrated butterfly stroke/freestyle swimmer Maggie Hickey, freestyle swimmer Mikayla Kempf, backstroke/butterfly stroke/intermediate medley swimmer Lauren Massot, freestyle swimmer Megan Mensinger and captain and freestyle/backstroke swimmer Kaylee Sisson.
The women’s team entered the meet ranked No. 20 in Div. II, and needed to win its final matchup at home to avenge its first duel loss of the season. The Bulldogs got off to a hot start, taking the top three spots in the 100-meter breaststroke. Breaststroke/intermediate medley/butterfly stroke swimmer Natalie Galluzzo took first with a time of 1:06.07, breaststroke/intermediate medley swimmer Ginny Schranck finished second with a time of 1:06.89 and intermediate medley/freestyle swimmer Allison Garrett rounded out the top three with a time of 1:07.65. The ’Dogs also claimed the top two spots in the 100-meter freestyle with freestyle swimmer Alexis Poe taking first with a time of 54.28 seconds and Garrett just a moment behind at 54.44 seconds. Despite starting the day off in the lead, the Bulldogs were unable to hold control late in the meet and eventually fell to the Billikens 111-94.
After the meet, Sisson reflected on her time as a Bulldog, and said the people make the program. The swim team is more like a family to Sisson, who has lived with her teammates for most of her career as a Bulldog.
“It’s just a happy ending,” Sisson said. “I’m not sad about my swimming career ending because everything has gone the way I wanted it to go. The happiest memories I can think of at Truman have to do with my swim team. It’s just so fun to have your friends around you all the time. That’s probably what I’ll miss is just hanging out and having people that make me a better person all around me.”
The men’s team was able to claim first in three different events against the Div. I Billikens, but were unable to score enough points overall to compete with the St. Louis team’s score.
The Bulldog’s sophomore class carried them in the individual events. In the 1000-meter freestyle, freestyle/backstroke/intermediate medley swimmer Connor Neils took first overall with a time of 10:02.81, and in the 200-meter freestyle, freestyle swimmer John Breen topped the podium with a time of 1:44.61. Later in the meet the upperclassmen accounted for the Bulldogs’ final victory of the day in the 200 medley relay consisting of butterfly stroke/backstroke swimmer Mike Franz, freestyle/breaststroke swimmer Mark Franz, Gieseke and Harris, who posted a time of 1:34.15. After the final race had been swam, the Billikens left Pershing Natatorium with a 136-68 victory.
Prior to the senior day festivities, head coach Jerod Simek shared his appreciation for a senior class that welcomed him in and took leadership roles without being asked to before the season had even begun.
“This year started very different,” Simek said. “I give a lot of credit to the seniors for keeping everything on track. All of them have helped to make sure everything still flowed really well and made sure we stayed on track with what our goals were.”
One of those seniors is Olson. Olson was met with a surprise on the day of his final meet in Kirksville: his brother, a Truman swimming alumnus, came to watch him for the first time.
“The meet for me was a roller coaster of emotions,” Olson said. “My older brother came to watch me swim with my parents. He swam at Truman 11 years ago and hadn’t come down to watch me race yet, so it was really cool to have him watching me swim. That mixed with the sadness of knowing this will be the last time I race in my home pool really drove home the feeling that this journey is coming to an end.”
Following senior day the men’s and women’s teams both had one final regular season duel before turning their attention to the postseason. The teams traveled to Macomb, Illinois, to take on the Western Illinois University Leathernecks.
The men’s team was able to finish its season with a duel win over its second straight Div. I opponent. The team relied on strong finishes from Olson, Gieseke and King to bring the team its fourth duel victory of the season. The men will now head into the conference meet looking to qualify athletes for individual spots in the NCAA championships this March. None of the current team members have competed at the national championships, but the teams 800 freestyle relay nearly qualified last season and returners Niels and Franz qualified for the ‘B cut’ for last year’s NCAA championships.
The women’s team entered its final meet of the regular season with the chance to win its eighth duel of the season, the most this decade. In its second consecutive day of competition, the women’s team again competed neck-and-neck with a Div. I foe. The 200-meter medley relay team of Sisson, Hickey, Galluzzo and freestyle/butterfly stroke/backstroke/intermediate medley swimmer Emma Brabham took first for the second straight day while Mensinger finished first in the 500-meter freestyle followed by two more Bulldogs: freestyle swimmer Brook Beahan and Sisson. Despite a valiant effort from its seniors, the women’s team lost its third consecutive duel before conference. Sisson said she believes that the team is well prepared to compete in the GLVC conference meet in February, and believes the team should focus on claiming at least third in the conference and sending multiple athletes to the NCAA championships.
The GLVC Conference meet will begin Feb. 12 and will conclude Feb. 15 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Both teams will have one final opportunity to qualify for the national championships and continue the storied tradition of Bulldog swimming.