Eastern swim teams ready for season

Sean Hastings, Assistant Sports Editor

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A new season brings new faces to a team, but some faces from last year’s team are missing.

The men’s and women’s swim teams lost some key swimmers from last year: Amy Smith, who transferred, and Katie VanHootegem and Nikki Peck, who graduated. Nevertheless, coach Jacqueline Michalski said there are others ready to fill their spots.

Michalski brought in four freshmen on the women’s side: Martee Grainger, Caro Lamarque, Lauren Oostman and Emily Stroud.

Catie Danforth is returning this year after spending a semester last year studying abroad, and will be one of the swimmers relied on to fill the spots of VanHootegem, Smith and Peck.

“Martee (Grainger) and Lauren (Oostman) are both backstrokers, and hope to help to have a little more depth in our backstroke,” Michalski said.

Smith was the team’s top backstroker last year.

There are eight new freshmen on the men’s side: Leo Garofalo, Nick Harkins, Alex Laleian, Logan Long, Jason Manning, Tyler Parrish, Jennings Soccorso, and Gerald Stingle.

Despite being just freshmen, Michalski said that she likes what she has seen from them so far in practice and will be a big part to the team this year.

“The new freshmen have brought a lot of energy and competitive nature into the program,” Michalski said. “So that’s kind of helped everybody.”

Michalski said that some of the freshmen are already swimming at the levels of some of the seniors and have the same drive as all of the older swimmers.

The team has been practicing since September 1. On Saturday, they did a blue vs. white meet. The times posted during this practice meet were better than last year’s.

Last year, Michalski said she had to spend a while getting the team in shape, but the team did a lot this offseason and are already in shape.

“The attitudes, I think, not only from the coaches but the swimmers, has changed and been a lot better,” Michalski said.

Eastern is going to open their season this weekend at the Illinois Invitational and will be swimming against Western Illinois.

One big meet that fans can look forward to is against Valparaiso Nov. 7 at the Padovan Pool. Both the men and the women split the two meets with Valpo last year.

This year’s captains for the women are seniors Kelsey Ferguson, Danforth and Beth Houghton. The men’s captains are juniors Brogan O’Doherty and Shane Witzki.

Michalski said that the new captains are stepping up and doing well in the new role.

She said that the women have always had a strong history of leaders in the pool and in the classroom.

The women’s team posted the top grade point average in the nation for Division I women’s swim teams in the spring semester and tied for the top GPA in the fall.

“That’s something the captains have really focused in on,” Michalski said.

For the men, it’s no different. Both swimmers are already doing a good job as leaders.

“Shane (Witzki) is a great leader,” Michalski said “He’s a great person to talk to. The men really look up to him and respect him.”

We will now see if these swimmers can lead the Panthers to some wins this year to improve on last year’s records as the men went 1-8 and the women went 3-7.


Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]