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Northern Michigan University swimmers, divers get short prep time for GLIAC meet

Northern Michigan University’s Gabby Spajic competes in the women’s 200-yard butterfly in a January 2018 meet against Wisconsin-Green Bay at NMU’s PEIF pool. (Photo courtesy Shannon Stieg)

MARQUETTE — It’s been a short season for the Northern Michigan University swimming and diving teams, but it’s been fairly successful for the men’s and women’s squads.

The women and men both earned splits with Saginaw Valley State and Wayne State earlier this month with both toppling the Cardinals before losing twice to the Warriors. So far, Wildcats head coach Heidi Voigt likes what she sees in the limited time they’ve been in competition.

“I think we swam well,” she said during a Zoom interview Monday. “I was, I guess, pleasantly surprised with the results. I knew we were a little bit stronger than Saginaw Valley, I just didn’t know if we were going to be able to show up. That was three weeks of training going into that, but we had some great races. We always swim well in that pool, Saginaw’s got a good pool.

“And then Wayne State, it seemed like we did better on some of the distance events against them, but they’ve just had a few more weeks of that strength training and being stronger…. They’re a good sprint school for sure. So their sprints were something that we couldn’t catch up with, but maybe in another week, we’ll see what happens next week.

“To put it in perspective, swim season, we generally start practice the fourth day of school and then nationals could be mid-March. So we’re just a sport that is very aerobic and strength-based and you’re swimming through water, which is the most resistance out of any other sport, really.

“So there’s just a lot of things to contend with, and typically swimmers just train longer and we just didn’t have that time (this season). We had about a month when we were all cleared to get back in, we had about the month of October, maybe a week in September, and then we’re shut down again…. By the time we got back, it was four short weeks and then the conference championships.

“I think some of it’s kind of freeing for people. They’re not weighted down with expectations. They’re kind of like ‘Well, I’ve done the best I could in what’s happened and now, let’s just go see what’s going to happen and how I can perform.'”

The first big event of the season, the GLIAC Championships, began Wednesday and runs four days through Saturday in downstate Holland and is being hosted by Davenport and Grand Valley State.

Voigt likes how the Wildcats stack up and thinks it could be a successful week as some of the pressure that normally happens to athletes this time of year is almost gone due to the shortened season.

“The nice thing about our team is that there’s always somebody that surprises you, so that’s great,” she said. “I’m looking forward to Ondrej Zach’s distance events. I think he’s ranked in the top 10 right now in the nation (NCAA Division II) with the mile he did a week ago. So I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do.

“Erikas (Kapocius) should have a good 400 IM (men’s individual medley) and I think people keep looking stronger every week.

“Jenna Joerger on our women’s team, give her another week of training and she starts looking stronger. Maggie (Vaitkus), one of our seniors, she’s going to go out there and you can never underestimate the mental aspect of it and she’s a good mental swimmer. I think one of our freshmen, Emilia Morris, is going to be ready to go as well. And I’m looking forward to some of our men’s divers really coming through this year.”

The NCAA Division II Championships are scheduled for March 16-20 in Birmingham, Alabama.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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