Young swimmers hope to push expectations

by Matt Lash, Sports Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — With just eight swimmers last season, the men’s swim team struggled to place in meets because they couldn’t compete in every event.

Now with six additional freshmen on this year’s roster, the team looks to become more competitive at meets while still focusing on individual performance.

Head coach Tom Caccia is in his fifth season with the Storm. He said he’s happy with where the program is and where it’s heading. With an above-average recruitment class this season, he hopes to build the program in size and make it a contender in the IIAC.

“You can always replace the numbers, but you can’t replace the experience or leadership,” Caccia said. “At the end of last season, we had four seniors and four freshmen on the guys’ side, so now the oldest guys on the team are sophomores, so we lose a lot of experience there.”

This season, the Storm will host more meets than it has in past years. With three home meets in November and one in late January, the Indianola YMCA has become like a second home for the team.

The older swimmers try to build team chemistry and keep energy up while also ensuring the team is working to get better.

Austin Andes, a sophomore who swims breaststroke, said he hopes to make an impact on the team’s new members with his energy, friendliness and leadership.

“Being on a college athletics team for a freshman can be scary, and I feel giving the freshmen comfort and friendship can make their transition from high school to college athletics easier,” Andes said.

In most sports, the overall outcome as a team is what matters — a win or loss in the record book. In swimming, the focus is on individual performance and cutting time; it’s the athlete versus the clock.

“Swimming is a much more individual sport,” Caccia said. “Individual efforts equal team results.”

Both the men and women’s teams lost valuable members over the offseason. With six teammates graduating, both squads needed strong recruits entering the water this winter.

And they got what they needed.

Freshman Noah Nelson, a do-it-all swimmer, has already proven his talent this season by setting three school records at his first collegiate meet. The freshman set new records in the 1,000-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley, earning him high praise from Caccia.

“Noah is a very talented swimmer and can swim in a variety of events, and he will be a very strong contender throughout the season within our conference,” Caccia said. “If he works to his potential, wherever that lands him at the end of the season will be great.”

With more stellar performances from Nelson and the rest of the Storm swimmers, the team could see closer outcomes in races and meets for the remainder of the season.

Because it’s such an individual sport, Caccia impresses upon the team the importance of hard work and persistence.

“I like to tell them all, ‘Every day you come in, understand that yesterday was the easy day.’ And with that, we just want to keep working harder every day,” he said.

The Storm will host dual meets at the Indianola YMCA the first three weekends in November against IIAC rival Coe College, followed by St. Ambrose and another IIAC foe, Loras College, before Thanksgiving.