CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – On a team consisting solely of freshmen and sophomores, there is no denying that the Simpson swimming – and soon to be diving – team is on the rise after both the men's and women's teams recorded their highest finishes ever at the Liberal Arts Championships this weekend.
Despite a small squad size of a combined 11 men and women, the Storm held their own against teams from around the Midwest at the meet, which was hosted by Coe. The men placed eighth of ten teams while the women placed eighth of twelve.
In all, the Storm set 15 school records at the meet. The men set 14 and the women set one.
"What an amazing meet the team had this weekend," interim head swimming coach Eric Crawford said. "Even though other teams have much more depth and diving programs, we were able to overcome the odds. At the end of the meet, I was in pure shock and amazement of what we had accomplished."
The newest sport on campus – the women's team began in 1997 and the men started up in 2009 – the Simpson swimming teams have shown marked improvement over the last few years, building momentum for the future.
A venue change scheduled for next season will send the teams to Indianola's brand new YMCA, allowing the addition of a diving team which is sure to help the program even more.
"The week leading up to the meet, I kept telling the team that any team that doesn't see us as a threat is mistaken," Crawford said. "This meet proved how much progress we have made in such a short time. And with all freshmen and sophomores, we are going to get better and better."
The Storm men set 14 school records on the weekend and experienced a program first as freshman Kyle McKim reached the podium by placing sixth in the 100 breaststroke.
Simpson scored 158 points, ahead of Coe (124) and Eureka (59). Illinois Tech won the meet with 702 points, followed by Luther (665), McMurry (405), Franklin (404), Loras (354), Morningside (346) and Principia (297).
McKim's effort in the 100 breaststroke highlighted the meet, as he finished in 1:01.15, placing sixth and breaking his own school record set earlier this season. He also reset his own school record in the 200 breaststroke (2:16.17) in the prelims and reset the mark in the 200 IM with a 2:07.90 to place 14th.
James Tillison set three individual school records, swimming an 11:08.64 in the 1,000 freestyle (during the first 1,000 yards of the Mile), an 18:32.09 in the Mile and a 2:12.60 in the in the 200 butterfly. He placed 14th in the Mile and 12th in the 200 fly.
Simpson also set school records in five relays: the 200 freestyle relay (Scott Wailes, Tillison, McKim, Schneider, 1:36.54, 7th), the 400 freestyle relay (Schmidt, Schneider, Tillison, Wailes, 3:31.05, 8th), the 800 freestyle relay (Schneider, Tillison, McKim, Schmidt, 7:48.98, 8th), the 200 medley relay (Schmidt, McKim, Schneider, Wailes, 1:44.99, 8th) and the 400 medley relay (Schmidt, McKim, Tillison, Wailes, 3:51.50, 8th).
Simpson scored 126 points, beating out McMurry (123), Principia (116), Mills (92) and Eureka (22). Luther ran away with the team title (1,064 points), followed by Loras (449), Minnesota Morris (385), Morningside (355), Franklin (321), Coe (310) and Illinois Tech (141).
Christina Amburgy set the lone school record for the women's team, breaking a mark that was set eight years ago in the 200 freestyle. She swam a 2:06.48 in the prelims, breaking Lauren Origer's record of 2:06.76 set in 2005. She placed 13th in the event, swimming a 2:07.10 in the finals.
Amburgy added a 10th-place finish in the 100 freestyle, touching the wall in 56.22.
Hannah Yarbrough trimmed over a minute off her previous best effort in the Mile, swimming a 19:46.70 to place 10th. She added a 16th-place finish in the 500 freestyle (5:43.06), a 20-second improvement.
Megan Lein provided Simpson's next-best finish, coming in at 11th-place in the 400 IM with a 5:23.37. She also placed 13th in the 100 breaststroke (1:16.15) after setting a personal-best of 1:15.05 in the prelims and 13th in the 200 breaststroke with a personal-best time of 2:45.83.
Three relays also turned in season-best times, as the 800 freestyle relay (Amburgy, Lein, Marissa Stepleton, Yarbrough) placed sixth (8:51.58), the 400 freestyle relay (Yarbrough, Stepleton, Lein, Amburgy) placed seventh (4:01.72) and the 200 medley relay team (MacKenzie Carson, Lein, Amburgy, Stepleton) placed eighth (2:02.99).
With steadily improving performances posted throughout the season and added momentum with the upcoming venue change, Crawford has a lot of optimism for the future of the program.
"After the meet I had several coaches from other schools approach me and tell me how impressed they were with our team," he said. "They admired our team unity and the ability to drop large amounts of time in every event. It was a great feeling to know that we are getting recognized and have officially put the Storm on the map as one of the brightest, up-and-coming swim teams in the Midwest."