Swim and dive team continues to make a splash

IAN LACK Reporter

Track and field. Football. Wrestling. Baseball. Volleyball. Golf. Basketball. The list goes on. South Dakota State offers a wide variety sports. These sports amass various audiences and fans that crowd in fields, courts, tracks and even golf courses. However, one sport is held in a completely different setting.

SDSU’s swim and dive team is made up of 51 athletes, 23 men and 28 women. Each member of the team practices eight times per week, with six of the practices in the Frost Arena pool and two in the Dykhouse Student Athlete Center for weight and cardio training.

Head Coach Brad Erickson began swimming in college at SDSU. When he graduated with his graduate degree in teacher education, he took a position with the Rapid City Racers before accepting the position of head coach for the swim and dive team in 1976. This is his thirty-ninth year coaching the team.

He came to the position right after the swim and dive team separated into the men’s and women’s teams, respectively. Erickson noted that as various university programs were cut, the team was fortunate that they weren’t cut. The co-ed teams practice and compete together.

“For the most part, the women like to train with the guys,” Erickson said. “If they’re able to beat the guys, it’s like a victory for them. At the same time, the guys don’t want to be beat because of their egos. So, there’s a good sense of competition, and we get a great training atmosphere from that.”

When the team travels, they take a 56-passenger bus with their 51 members, three coaches and an athletic trainer. Every person on the team competes at every event they attend.

Bianca Ninneman, a senior, is a student coach for the team and has been with the team for four years. In her freshman year, she suffered an injury and began acting as the team’s student coach. She keeps the same hours that each athlete does, working with the team at practices and managing scheduling for practices.

“Every athlete on the team has their strengths and weaknesses,” Ninneman said. “There are sprinters, people who do mid-distance and then distance swimmers. It depends on what each student is good at that determines what they do at competitions.”

When it comes to these competitions, each school that competes receives a certain number of points. First place for a race awards the team nine points, second awards four, third three, fourth two and fifth place one. This applies for both swimming and diving. 

Within swimming, there are four types of races: breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke and freestyle at various distances.

Swimming is graded on distance times while diving is graded on form, angle, speed and other components of the dive. It is quantity within swimming versus quality within diving.

Several school records were broken by the team last year. Among others, both of the 50-meter freestyle records were broken at a conference meet in Indiana in February.

Junior Weston Christensen has been with the team for two years and swimming for 14 years. 

“At the time, I got a flyer about it at school and had a friend who swam too and just figured I’d give it a try,” Christensen said.

With eight practices per week in addition to the competitions the team participates in, athletes find that it is not always easy to maintain work, especially with the sport running year-round.

“It’s not easy and it takes a lot of time, but it is doable,” Christensen said. “They provide a lot of resources for you here at SDSU. Our academic advisers are really great resources when we feel overwhelmed because the team takes a lot of time.”

Many of the athletes, especially the swimmers are international students. Garth Wadsworth, a senior, comes to SDSU from Durban, South Africa. There have been several Olympians coming from his high school that have won representing their country.

“If you can’t kick a ball and you can’t catch a ball, you usually end up in swimming,” Wadsworth said. “I’ve been doing it for about 12 years now. It’s been a really positive community on the team.”

The swim and dive team will compete at the University of South Dakota Wednesday, Nov. 11.