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Seniors dive into record books as they cap swimming career

Maddy Hermon/The Simpsonian

Maddy Hermon/The Simpsonian

by Matt Lash, Sports Reporter

ELSAH, Ill. — With a total roster of 26, the men’s and women’s swimming and dive teams aren’t the biggest, most well-known teams at Simpson. But they are an energetic family.

Last weekend, that family competed at the Liberal Arts Championships in Elsah, Illinois. Over the three-day meet, the teams broke 18 school records, set plenty of personal records and made huge improvements as a team. The men finished in eighth place while the women finished eighth.

Swimming is one of the only sports that is more internal than external. Swimmers are racing the timer and themselves rather than the swimmers beside them. Head coach Tom Caccia isn’t too concerned about what place swimmers finish, as long as they are challenging themselves to get faster with each race.

“In some events, there will be 60 competitors,” Caccia said. “With only the top 16 scoring, we have to be sharp just to get back to swim the finals. One of our goals is to get as many people swimming at night (finals) as possible.”

Seniors Dylan Gray and Alex Vander Veen both had exceptional swims to finish their collegiate swimming careers. This season capped off 10 years of swimming for Vander Veen and eight years for Gray. Their time swimming for the Storm has comprised some of their favorite memories at Simpson.

“I have set goal times and shattered every single one of them,” Vander Veen said. “I hope I never forget the feeling of touching the wall and seeing that I have not only beat my goal time, but blew it out of the water.”

Leading to her senior season, Vander Veen put in a lot of time during the offseason and it paid off. To end her collegiate career, Vander Veen reached the finals for the 100-meter butterfly, finishing 13th with a time of 1:05.51 for the fourth consecutive year. Vander Veen also reached the finals in the 200-meter butterfly, finishing 15th with a time of 2:35.93.

“As a team since my freshman year, I have witnessed 103 school records being broken, and I was a part of seven of those,” Vander Veen said. “This team has come so far, and I look forward to the great things they will do in the future.”

Much like Vander Veen, Gray has worked his way into the record books. Gray is now the record-holder for the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and was a part of multiple record-breaking relay teams this season.

“I’m truly happy with how I’ve done,” Gray said. “I accomplished two of my three goals and our team as a whole has seen plenty of growth this season.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams have competed at a high level this season. Although the teams only won a few meets, they have shown tremendous improvements throughout the season.

“As we continue to improve, I know the evolution of the program will continue to make us more competitive in this championship environment,” Caccia said. “I could not possibly be more proud of how we performed this past weekend. We took a big step forward in our program.”

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