MARQUETTE - After two full seasons of coaching the Northern Michigan University swimming and diving team, Heidi Voigt is creating a big wake in the program. A look at the team's roster this season will reveal one of the biggest changes: recruiting.
Ranging from Alaska to California and from Israel to Australia, this season's roster contains athletes from eight states and four different countries, most of whom are freshmen or sophomores in the program. Voigt said that some of these recruits from distant spots will be her top swimmers this weekend in the squad's first home meet since 2010.
"I've been happy with Jordan Iverson, a sophomore from Alaska," Voigt said. "She was strong in intrasquad so I expect good things from her this weekend. I'm also excited about our diving prospects."
Voigt's top diving prospects are sophomore Molly Kearney from Sacramento, Calif., who is coming back after being redshirted with an injury last year. One of Voigt's latest recruits is freshman Crystal Bennet from Sydney, Australia.
"It's all recruiting. To get better, you have to be willing to recruit," Voigt said. "You have to be willing to get up early and call Australia or stay up late to call the West Coast."
Accompanying the new freshmen are eight returning athletes, including three seniors such as Mexico City's Alzaga, who took eighth at NCAA Division II Nationals in the 200-yard backstroke to become the team's only All-American last season.
But after a season-long hiatus from home meets - with their last coming in 2010 against Hillsdale - the Wildcats have been focused on bringing more teams to their home pool this season.
The first of two home dual meets is this weekend against conference rival - and the only other conference team with only a women's program - Hillsdale and another one comes later in November against University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. NMU also has a four-team diving invite planned for January.
"It's not my choosing that we don't have home invites, it's just trying to get teams to come up here," Voigt said of the work that goes into scheduling. "It's just about starting those relationships with coaches and letting them know that I'll go down there if they come up here."
With Hillsdale coming up today and Saturday, Voigt is looking forward to getting more practice in their own pool, but also watching the young team compete with some unfamiliar faces.
"They're used to racing in our pool. We have two intrasquads and we had our Green and Gold race two weeks ago," she said. "When they race each other, they actually get more nervous, but they're used to this sort of thing."
The Green and Gold meet was the only other race that the Wildcats have competed in this early in the season, aside from intrasquads.
But Voigt, a now three-year coach at NMU, is satisfied with her prospects coming into today's race. According to Voigt, a strong training summer for the team has led to faster improvement this fall and an even stronger chance at early-season success.
"They did their training all through the summer, so when they got here, I was able to work them harder, sooner," she said. "I've been bringing in more resistance training in the pool and they seem to be responding well to that as well."
The team will begin the weekend's races tonight at 6 p.m., while Saturday's events will start at 9 a.m. at the PEIF pool.