Simpson Swim team makes waves at the Liberal Arts Championship


Corinne Thomas

Riley Reece competes in the 100y butterfly.

by Liv Allen, Feature Editor

The Simpson College Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams took the trek to Cedar Rapids to compete in the Liberal Arts Championships, hosted by Coe College, from Thursday, Feb. 17 to Saturday, Feb. 20. The Storm collectively ended their season with a fifth-place title at the Coe Natatorium. 

Simpson’s Sarah Pendergast, Madison DePover, Katie Cardoza and Katie Oosterhuis kicked it off for The Storm on Thursday during the 800-yard freestyle relay. 

The relay team landed in the fifth-place spot with a time of  9:06.00.

Friday’s competition consisted of a plethora of women’s races;  200-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard medley relay, 200-yard individual medley, 500-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 200-yard breaststroke in addition to the men’s 100-yard backstroke. 

The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Caroline Oberg, Katie Cardoza, Alyssa Harris and Sarah Prendergast placed fifth with a time of 1:49.77. Oosterhuis placed seventh in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:38.26. Pendergast landed in the eight place spot in the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 5:41.79, and Cardoza in twelfth at 6:11.07. 

On Friday, DePover placed fifth in the 200-yard breaststroke, clocking in at 2:50.40, Oberg and Pendergast tied for seventh in the 100-yard freestyle with times of 58.06. The 400-yard medley relay team of Harris, DePover, Oosterhuis and Oberg placed fourth with a time of 4:32.54. 

Simpson’s lone male competitor Blake Kakacek placed twelfth in the 100-yard backstroke with a time of 1:02.18. 

Harris placed third in the 200-yard individual medley Friday with a time 2:18.14, topping her previous school record of 2:19.40. She also reached record-time on Saturday during the 400-yard individual medley, placing third with a time of 4:56.73, passing a record set by Tori Haag back in 2016. 

“My goal coming into collegiate swimming was to break all of the individual medley records,” Harris said. “I was very happy and proud to have accomplished those goals that I set for myself. The team did amazing this last weekend, way better than we thought we would have, given COVID-19 and other things, so overall, the team was ecstatic.” 

Harris plans to graduate early next year, giving her only half of a season to compete.

“I’m going to try and break another record, whether it’s my own or another Simpson record,” Harris said. “I think this year showed that the team can really do anything together if we stay together. I think we set a strong example of what teamwork can really do.” 

Simpson capped it off on Saturday with the women’s 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard freestyle relay, 400-yard individual medley, 100-yard butterfly, 100-yard breaststroke, 200-yard backstroke, 50-yard freestyle, 1650-yard freestyle and the men’s 50-yard freestyle and 200-yard backstroke.

Oosterhuis was the runner-up in the 100-yard butterfly with a season’s best of 1:06.58, placing the highest among her team during the natatorium. Sophomore Riley Reece trailed with a fifth-place spot at 1:11.25, and Cardoza placed ninth with a time of 1:14.68. 

DePover and Oberg finished back-to-back in the 100-yard breaststroke; DePover with a fifth-place time of 1:15.03 and Oberg with a sixth-place time of 1:15.96. DePover also finished back-to-back with Cardoza in the 1650-yard freestyle; DePover landing at sixth-place with a time of 21:40.06 and Cardoza placing seventh with a time of 21:59.42.

Harris and Kakacek both placed seventh in the men’s and women’s 200-yard backstroke; Harris at 2:23.60 and Kakacek at 2:15.21.

For the 50-yard freestyle, Prendergast placed tenth at 26.81, Oberg placed fourteenth at 27.50, and Oosterhuis placed sixteenth at 28.43. 

Both relay teams placed fifth on Saturday. The 200-yard medley team of Harris, Oberg, Oosterhuis and Prendergast had a time of 2:01.85, and the 400-yard freestyle team of Prendergast, DePover, Harris and Oberg had a time of 4:02.02. 

Head Coach Tom Caccia was pleased with the team’s performance last weekend.

“I was surprised at how well we did,” Caccia said. “We only had about a third of what we normally practice behind us, and we ended up swimming remarkably well. The team really came together and swam beyond any of our expectations.

Caccia and the team faced many challenged when trying to practice safely in the midst of the pandemic. 

“We were able to keep our distance by having one person per lane,” Caccia said. “We focused a lot more on the middle distance down to the sprints. We knew we weren’t going to have enough time to focus on distance performances, so we were looking at what we could do with that we already have to work with. We focused on what we could improve–the details of the turns, stroke mechanics, streamlines, getting off the blocks, those kinds of things. I think our improvement in that gave our swimmers a lot more confidence in their abilities.” 

Cardoza also attests that the season went well, despite limited time to practice and other complications brought along by COVID-19.  

“Given the circumstances, the season went really well,” Cardoza said. “My biggest takeaway is that we need our time to practice, but even under not ideal circumstances, we could make it work.” 

The Storm swimming team will retire five seniors this season.