Ruckert and Wakefield make different impacts on Eastern swim team


Mackenzie Freund

Kyle Ruckers swims the 1000 yard freestyle during the meet against Indiana University-Purdue university Indianapolis on oct. 17. Ruckert is preparing himself for the mile event at conference.

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

Senior swimmers Kyle Ruckert and Joann Wakefield are almost polar opposites, coach Jacqueline Michalski said, but that is what makes their impact on the Eastern swim program so great.

“Kyle (Ruckert) probably out of everyone on this team bleeds blue probably the strongest and the loudest,” Michalski said. “He just absolutely loves the swim team. At meets, he has the most amount of energy, he’s running up and down the deck, he’s cheering.”

Before every meet, the team does what they call “The Hoochie Cheer,” and Ruckert is always in the middle leading it very loudly, to say the least.

“I like to lead by example I think,” Ruckert said. “I like getting involved with cheering and getting people going.”

Ruckert added that he always likes to approach every meet and practice focusing on the positives, rather than the negatives.

While Ruckert is a big voice for the Panthers, Wakefield on the other hand, is not as vocal.

“Joann (Wakefield)’s kind of a silent leader,” Michalski said. “She comes to practice everyday and she puts her head down and goes fast. She doesn’t always say much but she’s one that leads by example. She is very professional.”

Wakefield said she felt showing the younger swimmers the ropes and what college swimming was all about was on of her roles as a senior leader this year.

Another sign of Wakefield’s leadership and toughness was shown at practice the other day when Wakefield told Michalski that she hurt everywhere, but was still going to go fast.

“She has a great attitude with her,” Michalski said. She’s gotten a lot faster and she’s really excited about that. She spent all summer here training with coach (Nicole) Brown on her own without any instruction.”

Ruckert is a distance swimmer and will be focusing on the mile event for conference. Wakefield swims the shorter events and will be prepping for the 100-yard breaststroke.

“My main event at conference will be the mile,” Ruckert said. “I’ve always just been a distance swimmer.”

Ruckert swam a 10:27.75 in the 1000-yard freestyle Saturday, which was seven seconds faster than the last time he swam the event back in early December. Ruckert took third in the 1000-freestyle on Saturday against Western.

Ruckert said he is happy with that time but is now the minimum for him and it is time for him to improve on that time.

Wakefield had a second place finish in the 50-yard freestyle on Saturday against Western and Butler.

For Wakefield, the time drops she sees may not be as large as Ruckert’s because of the types of events they swim, but both strive to get those time drops. For a sprinter, dropping times as low half a second can be a big deal. But for Ruckert, he looks to get bigger time drops and said he has to be patient.

Michalski has not been here for Ruckert’s and Wakefield’s entire career, but has seen both swimmers grow in their own way.

“Kyle (Ruckert) I think is coming to his own person,” Michalski said. “He’s grown as a swimmer obviously, but his personality has really taken off this year. He’s not shy. He just owns who he is.”

He has been known to always have a funny comment at practice that can get everyone laughing. Michalski said there is times where she and assistant coach Meghan Cotugno are laughing so hard, they cannot even breathe.

For Wakefield, her biggest growth came just as a swimmer in the pool. She is one of the leaders on the team who will keep others’ heads and spirits up if practice doesn’t go their way.

Michalski said Wakefield has become much stronger than she was last year.

“She’s grown a lot just as a swimmer,” Michalski said. “She’s grown in the pool. I think she’s finally excited about swimming again.”

She said she thinks last year a light bulb clicked in her head at House of Champions after having a strong meet and began to love the sport again and carried that into this year.

“I don’t think I can emphasize the work she did this summer,” Michalski said. “That’s really made the difference.”

Saturday night was the last time the two senior leaders would have a meet in the Padovan Pool. Eastern celebrated senior night and honored Ruckert and Wakefield, as well as eight other seniors for their accomplishments at Eastern. The seniors were also able to spend the night with their family.

“It’s always nice getting the parents involved,” Ruckert said. “They’ve always been a big part of my swimming and getting involved. It kind acknowledges them as well so I really appreciate that because I’m the one swimming but my parents have definitely put in a lot of effort into getting me here.

Wakefield said it was cool to have a night about her and the rest of the seniors, but it was very bittersweet. She also loved the fact that her family was able to make the meet because they were not able to go to a lot throughout the year.

Even though the two seniors are different in a few ways, they do share one thing in common for sure, and that is leadership and the impact they have made on the program will stay even after they graduate.


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