Spire swimmers ready for season opener Saturday
The University of Saint Mary men's and women's swimming teams returned to the pool earlier this month in preparation for a season-opening competition at the Sam Freas Invitational, scheduled for Saturday in Edmond, Oklahoma.
The Spires come back this season after missing out on the opportunity to compete in the NAIA national swimming competition after the meet was nixed earlier this year due to continued precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite not having a national meet, the Spires were plenty qualified to bring swimmers to the competition and had multiple individuals earn All-American status for the first time in program history. Sophomores Braydon Kime, Kelsey Taylor and Justin Schaefer as well as junior Grace Sanford all became the first All-Americans in program history and will be back this season to contend for a spot at nationals.
"I’m hoping these four will have the opportunity to swim at nationals this year," head coach David Bresser said. "They all know it won’t be easy but they are leading from the front early in the season and motivated to get their chance."
Outside of the All-Americans and team captain Joe McGuire, the Spires have a solid number of newcomers, which Bresser attributes to solid recruiting.
"I am very excited about the swimmers coming in," he said. "I had my largest recruiting class since I started the program. This freshman class can help take us further as a team."
The class includes a local product in Rhiannon Neath (Basehor-Linwood) as well as many others from the region and even further. Bresser said while the pandemic has changed some of the ways he recruits athletes, he feels like having access to meets via streams has helped him expand his recruiting footprint to states where he wouldn't normally look.
"I really like being able to watch a swimmer compete in a meet three or four states away," Bresser said. "However, I miss the personal interactions with both the swimmers and the coaches. I and other coaches rely more on email, social media and recruiting sites. I learned a great deal from last year to this and was able to capitalize."
While the NAIA granted senior student-athletes the opportunity to compete an extra season under their eligibility, Bresser said the Spires didn't feel the need to keep any swimmers from moving on with their careers.
"My other graduating seniors had the chance to swim another year," he said, "but I would rather they get their career started. It would be nice to have more depth but it’s more important for them to get on with life. I am very proud of their accomplishments."
Despite losing those seniors, Bresser said this season's team will have the depth necessary to compete against some of the tougher opponents and put more points up at nationals.
"I want to maintain our outstanding reputation," he said, "with success in the classroom and the community while working hard in the pool to move up in the conference standings, score points at nationals, and get some national recognition. We have the depth now to make some of these moves, especially on the men’s side."
That depth includes juniors Weston Hutchings, Brandon Powell and Zachary Crumpacker as well as sophomore Landon Adamo. The returning depth will be supplemented by newcomers Lucas Sandoval (New Mexico), Evan Fuqua (Kansas), Will Douthard (Colorado), Mayson Thiebaud (Oklahoma), Adam Orel (Kansas), Blake Jorgens (Colorado), Matt Hall (Oklahoma) and Marco Khalil (Texas).
On the women's side, the Spires will have sophomores Adrienne Dexel and Emma Will back after solid freshman seasons. Similar to the men's team, Bresser brought a host of newcomers in from across the region in Jordan Riggles (Topeka Seaman), Kourtney Flynn (Pittsburg), Aaliyah Gonzales (Mill Valley), Quinn Stratton (Shawnee Mission West), Sydney Jones (Iowa), Neena Lorenz (Missouri) and Molly Henson (Texas).
Bresser said the increased depth on the women's team will allow for more competitive meets throughout the season.
"With bigger numbers, we now have multiple relays for meets," he said. "This will make a big difference while also providing some competition among the team. I also want to be more competitive at regular-season dual meets mainly with some of our bigger opponents."
Those opponents include Midland and Maryville with the Spires set to face the pair in a back-to-back in the back half of October as well as William Jewell in 2022.
The Spires season-opening meet in Oklahoma will be followed by the Sunflower Showdown, scheduled for Friday in Topeka, featuring college swimming teams from across the state. After a week off, Saint Mary is scheduled to host the Spire Relays Oct. 16 at Lansing High School Natatorium.