The women’s swim team had five members compete at the NCAA Division III Championships in Indiana from March 19-22.
Emily Nienhaus, Amy Boritzke, Gemma Pillsbury, Alexa Pronga, and Amanda Walker represented the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point competing in relays with Walker competing individually.
According to head coach Al Boelk, Walker became the first athlete in school history to swim in the mile event at nationals.
Both Boritzke and Pronga have competed at nationals before this season while it was the first for Walker, Nienhaus, and Pillsbury.
“Swimming at nationals was a simply amazing experience,” Pillsbury said. “It was truly a privilege to be representing Stevens Point at the national level, and to be compete against the top Division III swimmers in the nation was unreal.”
“It was nothing I expected it to be,” Nienhaus said. “I knew it was a big deal swimming at this meet but nothing could have prepared me for the amount of crazy fast swimmers that were there.”
Ending her senior year swimming at nationals, Boritzke described it as a great feeling.
“I am very happy that I got to end my career competing at nationals,” Boritzke said. “The relays that we qualified were some solid relays and it was exciting to be there and have the chance to swim them one more time.”
Coach Boelk said it was the most fun he has ever had at nationals, but noticed the increase in speed swimmers have now compared to year’s prior.
“The national meet has gotten very fast, and we would’ve done better in years past,” Boelk said. “The depth of the nation is staggering. This was one of our fastest relays we’ve ever had, and we fell two places out of scoring.”
The speed of opposing swimmers was noticed immediately by both Pillsbury and Nienhaus.
“I was in shock seeing some of the fastest swimmers from Division III in the country,” Nienhaus said.
“It was an eye opening experience to see how fast the swimmers competing there were,” Pillsbury said.
Boelk felt that the big stage of nationals had no phase with the nerves of the athletes when competing.
“They took it in stride. These five girls are tough and have been in big meets before,” Boelk said. “All five are physically and mentally strong. They got fired up and went at it.”
Throughout the season, Boelk messed around with different combinations of relay teams letting them shape over the season.
“Over the season you see the relays evolve. There were 8-10 legit combinations and trying to find one takes the entire season,” Boelk said. “With them being the fastest girls on the team we began building around them one meet at a time.”
With four of them returning, the expectations for next year are to build off of this year’s success not only as a relay but also as an entire team.
“Despite our satisfaction with this season, next year we hope to come back even stronger and faster and make it to nationals again,” Pillsbury said.
“Every year is a clean slate,” Boelk said. “I’m feeling optimistic about next year with four of our fastest back next year with upperclassmen that almost qualified, and the incoming freshman.