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Swim and dive team brings in talented newcomers

November 1, 2007

Coming to a new school in a new place requires some degree of adjusting for any college student.

For most, the college experience begins slowly.Students get to know their new surroundings as well as their new peers, and eventually once the students become acclimated with their schedules and learn to manage their time, some find student organizations or extracurricular programs to be a part of. This description of life at school paints a portrait of the average college student. A portrait of life so easy, the picture might as well have been finger-painted by a preschooler. Another portrait of college life exists for some, but like a magiceye picture it may be very difficult for some to see. A closer look at the lifestyles led by some of the people walking on campus will reveal a much harder, much more grueling description of college life. This one describes life as a member of the UW-River Falls Falcon swim team, and this portrait is one that the average college student couldn’t handle looking at.

It may be hard for some to get up for an 8 a.m. class a couple times a week, but imagine getting up for swim practice at 5:45 a.m. It may seem like a drag to some that classes are spread out in different buildings all over campus, forcing students to have to walk around to get where they’re going. Now imagine beginning the school day by getting into a pool and not getting out before swimming the daily minimum of five thousand yards. That would mean getting up while it’s still dark out, getting over to the basement of Karges where the pool is located and proceeding to swim the length of fifty football fields before the first class of the day. Imagine doing all this, and then walking all over campus in efforts to keep up an average college schedule.

There is nothing average about the life of a swimmer, and this year the Falcon swim team welcomes a flock of new faces to the squad, all prepared to make the sacrifices needed to make themselves better, make the team better and continue to live the above-average lifestyle that is required of them to succeed. These new faces are welcomed by head coach Bill Henderson, who in his sixth year as head coach, credits the Falcon swimmers of the past seasons as those responsible for developing the great chemistry that defines this year’s team, as well as making the transition that much smoother for the new recruits.

“We have a very close knit team where everyone supports each other,” Henderson said. “The team chemistry that has been established over the past few years has become a recruiting tool for us as a program.”

When bringing a prospective athlete in for a visit, Henderson observes the way the athlete works with the rest of the team and what kind of attitude they bring with them. He can see what he wants in a squad when he looks at his team, and that makes it easy to weed out the ones he doesn’t. This recruiting season has brought many new faces to both the men’s and women’s roster, so it’s only right that they be introduced to their peers.

Henderson had plenty to say about his new recruits, but more importantly, he knew something significant about what each new swimmer brings to the team.

The men’s list of freshmen swimmers begins with the Anderson brothers, Josh and Justin, who are twins. They came to the Falcons by way of Roseville High School in Little Canada, Minn.

These brothers bring with them an unparalleled work ethic, one that is exemplified by the fact that while it is only required of the swimmers to practice five out of the six possible days to swim, the Anderson brothers chose to go the extra mile and show up all six days. Coach Henderson looks forward to seeing their progression as they strive to fulfill their potential.

Next in line is Sean Breneman, who comes to the Falcons by way of Tartan High School in Oakdale, Minn. Henderson said he sees Breneman bringing depth to the team, but expressed expectations of him becoming one of the team’s best overall performers in the future.

Expecting to transfer to UWRF and join the swim team at the semester break is Tom Pierson, who attended Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minn. Henderson and the rest of the team are looking forward to having Pierson as part of the team.

Mark Thorsen is a distance swimmer who fills a very important role on the Falcon swim team. The Eden Prairie, Minn., native competes in the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyles, and is expected by Coach Henderson to compete for a spot on the 400 and 800 free relays in the near future.

Rounding out the new recruits on the men’s roster is Nico Wallat, a swimmer described by Henderson as a pure sprinter, who came to the Falcons by way of Champlin Park High School in Brooklyn Park, Minn. Probably the most consistent sprinter in the Falcon lineup, Wallat excels at the 50 and 100 yard freestyles and is said to be showing signs of being more versatile.

Now, switching focus over to the women’s team allows one to meet an even larger 2007 recruiting class.

At the top of the list, the Falcons welcomed Abby Bachmeier from North High School in Eau Claire, Wis. Henderson describes Bachmeier as a swimmer with an extraordinary sense of pace who has taken well to the distance events. Expectations are high for Bachmeier, as she seems to get stronger and stronger each time she swims.

Next is Tamara Hughes, a breaststroker from Apple Valley, Minn. Hughes competes mainly in the 200 and 400 individual medaly (IM) and is known for bringing a great work ethic to the pool everyday.

Another new face in the pool belongs to Tamra Knight, a swimmer who’s heavy recruitment by Henderson began during her junior year at Mounds View High School in Shoreview, Minn. Described as a versatile swimmer, Knight excels in the 200 breast and 400 IM and is said to bring a very positive attitude everywhere she goes.

Another versatile freshman swimmer, Roxie Pingry from Winona, Minn. comes to the Falcons with lots of natural ability and a concentration on butterfly and breast. According to Coach Henderson, there is no better swimmer than Pingry when it comes to having what he calls, “feel for the water.”

Another swimmer heavily recruited by Henderson beginning with her junior year in high school is Emily Stein, who comes to the Falcons by way of Chisago Lakes High School and hails from Taylor’s Falls, Minn. Stein is regarded as one the most, if not the most versatile free-styler on the squad, competing in many events whether they are sprints or distance.

The next newcomer is Samantha Strehlow from Hurley, Wis, who has been hard at work trying to overcome past injuries and develop her true sprint freestyle ability. Coach Henderson expressed high expectations for her future.

Filling a very important role for the team this season is freshman Katelyn Teske, who joins the team by way of North Appleton High School in Appleton, Wis. The role of backstroker that Teske fills is an extremely important one, and she is known to do so with a strong work ethic that spreads to the rest of the team.

Nearing the end of the list of newcomers finds freshman Ranndi Tutor, a swimmer hailing from Washburn, Wis. Tutor is expected to develop much as a sprinter during the course of this season, and Henderson believes that her strength is the biggest positive in her development.

Finally, Katie Zappa is a transfer student who previously swam for Division I school Colorado State University, but who hails from Hudson, Wis. Coach Henderson described Zappa as one of the most natural talents to ever come to his program; a swimmer with an amazing natural feel for the water, one who’s versatility spans any distance of freestyle whether its free, fly, or back. Zappa is known for her amazingly positive attitude and smile that lets her team know that she is much more happy swimming for the Falcons than anywhere else.

Zappa joined men’s swimmer Wallat as athletes of the week following their performances in the recent win over Macalester. Both swimmers won two events apiece, helping contribute points to the squad in route to the overall team win. Following questions regarding the transition each had to deal with after arriving at UWRF, the athletes of the week both had positive comments.

“I enjoy it a lot more here,” Zappa said.

“Everyone supports each other,and we know we’re competing for a coach who knows what he is doing and who believes in us, both as athletes and people.”

A true freshman at UWRF, Wallat described his transition to college swimming as an eye opener.

“The guys I compete against are a lot bigger than they were in high school,” Wallat said. “I just try not to be overconfident, and take every race like it’s my first.”

With the season underway the Falcons can expect more of the same from their new faces at the events to come, and as the swimmers continue to develop their skills and confidence in the pool, their coach has only one message for his young team.

“This team makes it a pleasure to step on the deck everyday,” Henderson said. “Regardless of the outcomes, I have never been prouder of a group of swimmers.”