Summer Storm sports recap

by Brock Borgeson, Sports Editor

Much of the campus may seem dead over the summer, but the business didn’t slow down in the Simpson athletic department. Here’s some of what went down while many of you were away.

Softball head coach Henry Christowski retires

It was a shock to many people when Simpson softball head coach Henry Christowski announced his retirement, made known by the Simpson Athletic Department on Aug. 3.

Christowski had a historic career for the Storm, leading them to a 624-212-2 overall record in 20 seasons. He coached Simpson to 1997 and 1999 Division III national titles, the only two national titles in school history.

His personal accolades included: three-time IIAC Coach of the Year, National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III National Coach of the Year honors, and a NFCA Hall of Fame selection.

The reason for his announcement was private.

“The softball team mostly shocked and flabbergasted,” catcher Tori Haag said. “He didn’t really want people to know why he retired. He wouldn’t left if it wasn’t important, though.”

The athletic department will undergo a search for a permanent head coach this year. Kyle Owens, who coached the junior varsity team and has been on staff for 11 years, will take over as interim head coach this year.

“It was important for us to bring the staff back because it’s a very senior-heavy group and we didn’t want them to have to go through a bunch of changes,” Athletics Director Brian Niemuth said.

It will be an adjustment for Simpson as a whole as well as the returners to not have Coach ‘C’ in the dugout.

“He is a winner,” Haag said. “He knew how to win. He was a tough guy to get to know, but once you did, you saw that he was a really good guy.”

The IIAC expands, goes to the Cornhusker State

Rumors and discussion that had been brewing for years finally came to fruition when the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced the addition of Nebraska Wesleyan University as a full-time member on July 20.

Known as the Prairie Wolves, Nebraska Wesleyan will make the transition from being a Division III and NAIA school, the only such school in the nation, beginning in the fall of 2016.

“It’s been talked about for years,” Niemuth said. “They’re an institution that first well into this conference I think we decided that it was time.”

The IIAC had been at eight members since Cornell College left for the Midwest Conference in 2012, and will now expand to nine. Recruiting to the Lincoln and Omaha areas will likely expand and receive more attention from Simpson coaches.

Travel to the Lincoln, Nebraska-based school will present some challenges, especially for schools like Luther, Loras and Dubuque in eastern Iowa. The trip from Indianola is only three hours.

The Prairie Wolves are a familiar foe of the Storm, who have played each other in football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball and men’s tennis.

“We’ve played them before anyway,” Niemuth said. “Now it just becomes a conference game.”

Women’s tennis enters Gruenisen era

Simpson athletics had another change in its circle of coaches when Jennifer Gruenisen was hired as the women’s tennis head coach earlier in August.

Lindsay Chase was the previous head coach from 2008-2015.

Gruenisen graduated from Division III Gustavus Adolphus College (Minn.) in 2008 where she was an all-American tennis player in singles and doubles and was also named Midwest Region Senior Player of the Year.

“I think she’s a great find for us,” senior tennis player Michelle Hartmann said. “She has a lot of experience playing tennis on her own at the Division III level.”

The opportunity to get back into tennis and live out her appreciation for liberal arts schools was much of what drew Gruenisen to the position.

“I’ve always wanted to get back into a liberal arts school, and I’ve missed tennis,” Gruenisen said. “Having gone to a liberal arts school, I can relate to these kids and their classes.”