Though the UW-River Falls women’s swimming and diving team faces a number of different challenges in its upcoming season, a couple key members of the program have high hopes for the team.
One of those challenges that the Falcons face is the fact that only four out of the 14 swimmers on the roster are juniors or seniors. The rest of the roster is comprised of six freshmen and four sophomores.
Third-year head coach Ryan Hawke said that one of the biggest hurdles for young swimmers to overcome takes place in the weight room. “A lot of them coming in don’t have any weight lifting experience. That’s one of the challenges,” Hawke said. “We want to teach proper mechanics to stay safe in the weight room. A lot of high school programs do a lot more body weight exercises.”
Hawke went on to say that the few upperclassmen that are on the team play an important role in helping the younger swimmers understand the expectations of the program. “They do set the example, they show the hard work and they get them excited.”
Senior Sarah Koch is one of those few upperclassmen on the team. She was named the team’s Most Valuable Swimmer in 2012. Koch said that she is excited about her new teammates. “We have a pretty big freshmen class this year and we are glad to have them as a part of our family and look forward to seeing what they can do.”
She also talked about her role as an upperclassman. “We push everyone to attend practice and weight lifting and we encourage everyone to try their best. We are a team and are there for one another,” said Koch.
It is especially important for the team’s upcoming meet at UW-Oshkosh, a school that has finished exactly one spot higher than the Falcons in the WIAC Championships every year since 2006. The team did win last year’s meet against the Titans. “This is the important meet. Of all our conference rivals, this is the one we want to beat,” said Hawke.
Another one of the challenges that the team faces is that it goes more than six weeks between meets. After a Dec. 8 meet at Beloit College, the Falcons don’t have another meet until Jan. 25 at home against UM-Morris. Hawke said that he takes steps toward ensuring that athletes stay in shape over the break. “I write out workouts for everyone and send them home. It’s not a time I can really coach them. A lot go home and train with their high school or club teams.”
Every year the team also has a training trip that involves both men’s and women’s teams going away for about a week and a half to bond as a team and give the swimmers a chance to work with the coaches again. Last year, it was a trip to Hawaii. This year the team will be traveling to Missouri. Koch said that it is a good experience for the team. “A training trip gives us the opportunity to swim and train hard somewhere else and get the experience. It brings the team closer together and is a lot of fun,” said Koch.
Though the Falcons have to use the River Falls High School pool, Hawke said that the pool is an upgrade from the one on campus. “The facility is much nicer at the high school. We can have a diving team, and there are eight lanes instead of five. We just have more space.” Hawke did say that it was tough to find times to practice because the pool is used by a lot of people throughout the days.
Hawke said that he thinks it will be a fun season. “I’m hoping that we get to close a little bit on our conference competition. We have a good group of girls that came in. I hope that we have a winning record this year.” He also said that he thinks three girls have the chance to break individual school records in Koch, Hannah Wiseman and Becca Skelly.
The Falcons begin their season on Friday, Oct. 19 with a meet at UW-Oshkosh.