Eastern swimmers head to Summit League Championships

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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The Eastern men’s and women’s swim teams posted faster times than previous years this season, and now it is time for them to head to the Summit League Championships this weekend.

The 2016 Summit League Championships will be hosted by Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis. Eastern and the rest of the Summit League teams will get underway Wednesday and finish up Saturday.

The Panthers will be swimming against Omaha, Western, South Dakota, South Dakota State, IUPUI, and reigning champ Denver.

Denver has captured the title on the men’s and women’s side in back-to-back years and are in hope of making it three in a row.

Eastern has had the last two weeks off from competition but have been tapering, and everyone has been able to get a little rest. The past two weeks have gone well for the Panthers, coach Jacqueline Michalski said.

During the tapering process, the Panthers did a little bit of racing against each other and some of the swimmers posted season best times.

“They’re already feeling good and they’re already there and ready to swim,” Michalski said. “The confidence level is high, the energy’s high, so everything is setting up to be like a perfect weekend.”

The Panthers have had contribution from the freshman to the seniors throughout the year. Some freshmen were able to get a few wins and the seniors continued to be leaders of the team. There are seven senior women and three senior men on the respective rosters.

Senior Kaylee Morris was arguably one of the most consistent swimmers for the Panthers, winning a majority of her events throughout the regular season.

While some of the freshmen were able to get a few wins throughout the year, freshman Nicholas Harkins started to come on at the end of the year, earning his first career win against Valparaiso on Jan. 23. Harkins took first in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:02.86.

Harkins was one of the swimmers who approached best times ever during the tapering process.

“I always go into meets thinking I’m better than everybody there,” Harkins said. “If you get into the mind set that you’re not going to do well, then you’re not going to do well.”

Harkins will swim the 200-yard individual medley, and the 100 and 200-yard freestyle.

Eastern prepares themselves for the Summit League Championships all season, and for it to finally be here, has everyone beyond excited, Michalski said.

“For it to actually be here and for everything to be coming together, it’s exciting,” Michalski said.

Freshman Lauren Oostman spent the beginning of the season dealing with a sickness, but still found a way to be successful. Once she was over it, she was finding herself in the front of the pack pretty often.

Oostman will be swimming both the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke events as well as the 500-yard freestyle. She has best times of 59.68 in the 100-yard backstroke and 2:05.95 in the 200-yard backstroke at the House of Champions. Her best time for the 500-yard freestyle is 5:31.48 against Saint Louis Dec. 4.

Oostman’s goal for the Summit League Championships is to set both backstroke records, a goal she set early in the season, but she will also be open minded going in.

“I’m extremely excited to compete at conference,” Oostman said. “But I am also a little nervous since this is my first major college competition.

She added that her success throughout the season gives her extra confidence especially because she was still able to be successful while dealing with a sickness.

Freshman Jason Manning came into the season wanting to try out swimming. He was unsure if he wanted to join the team when he visited last spring, but decided to meet with Michalski.

Manning has trained and grown a lot in the sport and has made Michalski proud, she said. He was also one of the swimmers posting best times in practice in tapering, and even late in the season too.

All season long, the Panthers focus on themselves and how they can get better, and how they do in the meets. They don’t focus on what the other teams can do.

“I don’t care what (the other Summit League teams) do,” Michalski said. “My focus has always been this team and I’ve prepared them the best as I could as a coach and they’ve done the best that they could as athletes.”

For senior swimmers like Kelsey Ferguson, this is the fourth and final conference meet of their college careers.

Ferguson will be swimming the 200-yard individual medley, 100-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard breaststroke.

She has best times of 2:15.48 in the 200-yard individual medley, 1:09.65 in the 100-yard breaststroke and 2:28.58 in the 200-yard breaststroke.

Ferguson is excited for the last meet and being with the rest of the seniors she’s spent the four years makes the nerves go away.

“I think mostly I just want to walk away with great memories of my last meet with this team, and have it really be the most memorable and enjoyable conference meet I’ve swam,’ Ferguson said. “

Sometimes throughout the season, swimmers will get sick, and just like in any other sport, injuries happen. But everyone is ready to swim and is at their best.

Athletic trainer Zachary Hill has done a great job in getting everyone ready to swim in the final meet of the year, Michalski said.

 

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