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January 31, 2014

Swim team on right path to championships

By Aaron Cutteridge

The Vikings swim team returned to action for the second half of the season in dominating fashion. Back-to-back wins over Gannon University and conference opponent Wright State has Coach Wally Morton beaming with pride about the swimming and diving team.

Alexandra JohanssonCoach Morton sat down for a conversation on the remaining season expectations and upcoming Horizon League Championships to be held at Cleveland State’s Robert F. Busbey Natatorium. Wally Morton, coaching his 39th and final season with the Vikings, spoke passionately about the season to date, but more importantly his team.

The Vikings were “slow” in the water early in the season, which Coach Morton attributed to “training at a high level” with a young team including 20 new swimmers. Practices take place at least three times a week and sometimes five times a week. The teams would practice at least two times a day and, if necessary, three times a day during those practice sessions.

Coach Morton explained the team travels to a match the same day to maximize training schedules and academic time. This might have been cause for some of the early season slowness. He explained most other sports teams travel the day before to matches and competitions.

Morton credited the strong start to the group of swimmers and divers who he considered the core of both teams and their recent accomplishments. He mentioned Alex Lewis, who broke the 20-second mark in the 50-yard freestyle, Nathan Grant, who cracked the two-minute mark in the 200-yard breaststroke, Justin Kermack, considered one of the top 200 flyers (butterfly stroke) in the country, and Alasdair Shillito, named Horizon League Swimmer of the Year for 2013 for the men.

Morton considers Alexandra Johansson as “perhaps the best sprinter in the history of the program.” He also credited Rowan Elbadry, who was just named Horizon League Swimmer of the Week, Hayley Smith, an incredible 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke swimmer, and Christine Kopacko, who Morton calls “the heart of the team.”

Many people are unaware of the team aspect of swimming, only being exposed to the individual races in Olympic swimming.

Coach Morton explained, “Unlike what most people see for swimming and diving on the Olympics, college swimming and diving competition is a team sport, requiring everyone to play a role for the entire team to succeed.”

The coach proudly spoke of both teams’ involvement in social issues outside of the pool, including the Horizon League Community Outreach Award for the women’s team for outstanding community service. The men’s team was the runner-up for the award.