A strong start to the swim season, with a impressive turnout by sever- al freshman swimmers set a high bar for the swimming & diving team who got their season underway, hosting the 2023 Indiana Division III Championship Meet on Saturday, October 14.
This meet saw Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, DePauw University, Anderson University, Hanover College, Franklin College and Manchester University travel to Crawfordsville to kick off the 2023 DIII swim season in the Class of 1950 Natatorium.
The Wabash team with 649.5 points finished second out of seven teams, with 20 top-five individual finish- es, 3 top-five relay finishes, and 3 individual champions. This finish set them between Rose-Hulman who cruised to a win with 760.5 points and DePauw who finished third with 637 points.
All three individual champions were freshmen, two by Nicholas Plumb ’27 in the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke, and the other by Quinn Sweeney ’27 in the 500-yard freestyle.
Other standout performances from the meet were Xander Straw ’26 with a second place effort in the 500-yard freestyle, Justice Wenz ’25 in the 100-yard back- stroke — finishing second — and Connor Craig ’25 swimming to second in the 100-yard individual medley.
“It’s nice to have a fresh start and mindset coming into the sea- son,” said Plumb. “Our team is very excited. Coming from an enormous and highly competitive swim team at Carmel High School, it’s really special to be able to make a serious impact on the team in my first year. I’d like to make it to a final at conference, and to make it to NCAAs.”
“It felt awesome to be back in the water again,” said Sweeney. “The racing atmosphere at collegiate meets is electric.”
For Sweeney, his early impact can be a result of the presence the upperclassmen bring, which keeps him motivated and disciplined. I have some great upperclass- men teammates that I can rely on, and I love knowing that they can rely on me,” said Sweeney.
Getting back into the flow of the season, the team looks to take another step forward and push their boundaries. This year the swimming & diving team which found themselves in third and fourth at the NCAC championships for the past four years, seeks to compete atop the conference once again. The fast start from Saturday can be explained by the hard work the team has kept up in the offseason. Head Swimming Coach Will Bernhardt noted his anticipation for the season debut.
“It’s always great to get the season started,” Bernhardt said, “I know the team was really excited to race after a hard pre-season
of training. Getting back into ‘racing’ shape is something that takes a few competitions to really get going.”
The team is aware of Bernhardt’s hopes and driven to push the team forward in the conference, regional and national rankings.
“A huge team goal for us is sending swimmers to NCAAs,” said Plumb. “We were really close to sending a relay last year, and I know we just need a bit more to get over the hump. Equally as important to the team is closing the gap in our conference.”
“Our main focuses are going to be consistency at dual meets and conference, as well as working to crack into the national rankings,” Sweeney said.
One of the keys for the team’s future success will be their youth. With a big incoming class of freshmen the next few seasons should see a depth of talent for the Little Giants’ roster. Coach Bernhardt always feels pleasure working with an incoming class, and he had particularly high praise for this group of high-performing freshmen.
“This entire class has shown over the first month of the season that they are hungry and humble,” said Bernhardt. “The entire class has come to Wabash with a certain determination that is inspiring the entire team to take training and racing to a whole new level. This freshmen class has the opportunity to be very special and the staff is privileged to be able to help them along their journey.”
For Coach Bernhardt, some of his goals lie outside the pool, including works of community service and academic achievements. Coach Bernhardt explained the academic goals in detail.
“We have some work to do on campus to achieve that goal but in the spring semester last year, we had the third-highest team GPA among NCAC teams with a 3.42,” said Bernhardt. “We want to be at least a 3.5 to take the top honor in the conference.”
As far as in the pool, the goals Bernhardt has in mind are very similar to Plumb and all the competitors.
“A few of the big athletic goals are to catch Kenyon and Denison (two national powerhouses for swimming) at the Conference Championship Meet and to send a team of men to the NCAA Championship in March,” said Bernhardt.
Zooming out for the season at large, Bernhardt is optimistic with how the season will shake out, “The team is laser focused on all of our goals,” Bernhardt said, “It is going to be a fun year to watch how they grow and check off all the various goals they have for this year.”
The team will be back in action this Saturday, October 21 as they travel to West Lafayette, to compete in the Indiana Intercollegiate Meet at Purdue University.