Category Archives: Swimming

Wheaton Women in the Pool

December 7, 2017

This past weekend was a busy one for the Wheaton Women’s Swim team. Starting Friday, Dec. 1, at 9:30 a.m., the women dove in against Washington (Mo.) University, Hope College, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater and Augustana College. The Thunder took home second place with 839.5 team points. WashU claimed first with 978 points. Hope took third behind Wheaton, UW-Stevens Point came in fourth and Augustana in fifth.

During the first day of the Wheaton Invitational, the Thunder women were off to a strong start. The 200-yard freestyle relay, comprised of juniors Brooke Barnes and Kristen Garner and sophomores Michaela Sandeno and Maggie Franke, took first place with a time of 1:37.41. Barnes went on to place first in the 100-yard freestyle at 51.47 seconds, earning her a qualification for the NCAA championships, and Franke finished in second place with a time of 53.28 seconds.

Barnes said, “as far as [her] finishes go, it’s just God’s graciousness and I’m happy to have a team support me after my successes … as well as my failures.”

In the 100-yard breaststroke, Sandeno gained another first-place win for the Thunder. Her time of 1:07.94 was the seventh-fastest in program history. Freshman Kiki Rogers finished fourth behind Sandeno, and senior Alice Zhang placed sixth.

At 10 a.m. the following day, the women were back in the pool for prelims. In finals, Sandeno took first in the 200-yard breaststroke (2:25.55), sweeping the stroke. Barnes finished first in the 50-yard freestyle (23.83) and had the top qualifying time in the 200-yard freestyle (1:53.30), but did not swim in the finals. Her qualifying time was seventh fastest in program history. Sophomore Ashley Bowen conquered the 1650-yard freestyle, leading by over seven seconds with a time of 18:00.94.

Garner finished sixth behind Barnes in the 50-yard freestyle (25.43). Franke took second in the 200-yard freestyle (1:56.44), with Bowen (1:59.20) and freshman Kirsten Peters (2:01.01) finishing sixth and seventh, respectively. Peters also finished seventh in the 100-yard backstroke (1:03.94), just slightly behind sophomore Aleah Perkins (1:03.61) who claimed fifth.

The women finished the meet out with a bang, winning the 400-yard freestyle relay with a time of 3:33.78. The team was made up of Barnes, Bowen, Garner and Franke. While Wheaton didn’t win the meet, they had many swimmers put up impressive individual times. Sandeno commented that she is, “pumped to see how the end of the season goes and especially conference … This meet excited a lot of swimmers and got us excited for times at the end of the season.” The Thunder are taking a well-deserved break, jumping back into competition at Hope College for their Quad Meet Jan. 13.

Women’s Swimming loses to a strong U Chicago team

November 2, 2017

Saturday, Oct. 28 marked the beginning of the season for the Wheaton Women’s Swim team. They faced off against the number seventh-ranked Chicago Maroons. The Thunder fell to the Maroons 115-90.

Junior Brooke Barnes led the Thunder women with three wins. She had individual wins in the 50 free (24.71) and 100 free (53.79). Barnes led the 400 free relay with a time of 3:43.12. Senior Kristen Garner and sophomores Maggie Franke and Ashley Bowen were also on the relay with Barnes.

“For my personal performance,” Barnes said, “I give all the glory to the Lord… The Lord has been gracious with allowing me the success that I credit to my coaches, Meghan and Jacob.”

Garner swam against Barnes in the 50 free, taking third (25.74). Sophomore Michaela Sandeno took fourth in the event (25.96). Franke placed third in the 100 free (56.79) and second in the 200 free (1:59.48). Sophomore Ashley Bowen took first in the 1000 free (11:15.91) and third in the 500 free (5:46.82).

In the 200 backstroke, senior Meredith Clarkson swam into first with a time of 2:17.32. Sophomore Aleah Perkins was the next Thunder swimmer to finish after Clarkson, taking fourth (2:23.38). Sandeno led the Thunder in the 200 breast, finishing third overall (2:32.37). Junior Bethany Doyle finished fourth in the 200 butterfly (2:21.44), leading Wheaton in the event. Swimming the 200 IM, senior Carrie Steggerda placed fourth for the Thunder (2:22.82).

Wheaton took both first and second place in the 400 free relay. The second place team was made up of senior Noah Cameron and freshmen Anna Ganser, McKenna Lenderink and Kirsten Peters (3:51.59). In the 400 medley relay, Wheaton put two teams in the top three, but U Chicago took first place. Clarkson, Sandeno, Garner and sophomore Liz George pushed their way into second with a time of 4:12.93. Wheaton’s third place team, comprised of Peters, Ganser, Steggerda and senior Alice Zhang, finished right behind them at 4:20.38.

Looking forward, Barnes stated that the team is “definitely not letting up as [they] continue to train hard and earn [their] times through each practice.” This Friday, Wheaton will look to bring their season record up to 1-1 against the NCAA Division I UW-Milwaukee Panthers. The Panthers are 3-0 and are coming off a 177-71 win against Wright State. The Thunder will kick off against the Panthers Friday, Nov. 3 in the Lederhouse Natatorium at 4:30 p.m.

A strong start for Men’s Swimming and their new coach

November 2, 2017

After six weeks of practice and anticipation, the Thunder Men’s Swimming team began their season on Saturday as they hosted the seventh-ranked University of Chicago Maroons. It was their first meet under new Head Coach Jacob Ayers, and their first without Coach Jon Lederhouse in over 40 years. They started the season off strong, as they won every race except one, winning the meet 139-66. Freshman Will Rinne got his college career off to a superb start in the meet, as he won the 200 yard individual medley and the 200 yard breaststroke and was part of the winning 400 yard medley relay team. His performance earned him CCIW Men’s Swimmer of the Week honors. According to Ayers, the team was very excited for their first meet of the season. “This was a really fun week as we got closer to our first competition,” he said. “Everyone was excited that it was a home meet, and that it was against a team that we’ve had pretty close races and good competition with.” He also stated that he enjoyed his first meet as the team’s head coach. “It’s nice to have that experience [of coaching my first meet] under your belt. … and it’s nice to finally represent the college in that public arena, that was very fun for me.”
Before the meet, the captains met to discuss the team’s goals for the season. Senior Jack O’Connor explained that he and the other captains want the team to be competitive in both practices and meets, and to instill an excitement for the sport in them. He also expressed confidence in their chances to win the conference and even send some swimmers to the Division III NCAA National Meet in March.
The Thunder return to the pool on Friday, as they host the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee at 4:30 p.m.

Jacob and Meghan Ayers: Men’s and Women’s Swimming Head Coaches

Photo by McKenzie Gallagher

August 31, 2017

How long have you been involved in swimming?

Jacob Ayers: “I came [to Wheaton] to swim in college, swam for Jon Lederhouse for four years, I graduated in ’97 and I’ve been coaching young swimmers and high school swimmers ever since.”

Meghan Ayers: “I went to the College of Charleston in S.C., swam there for two and a half years and then transferred to the University of Illinois Chicago and swam there as well. I went to grad school here at Wheaton for education, got my masters and then as soon as I finished that program I started coaching with Jon Lederhouse.”

What is the most important part of your job?

JA: “We’re hired to do a few things: we’re here to mentor athletes in an athletic setting…if we’re not doing that we’re not accomplishing our goals.”

MA: “[Helping athletes] grow in Christ through swimming.”

Why were you interested in working at Wheaton?

MA: “It’s great that our faith can be at the forefront of what we’re doing. ”

Do you have a team verse or passage?

JA: “Psalm 37:5… It says ‘commit your way to the LORD and he will do this.’”

What are your goals as coaches?

JA: “Every year we hope to be in the hunt for a CCIW championship. The program has a history of being competitive at that level. Every year we want to qualify swimmers for NCAA championships…Ultimately we’d like to get the team to the level where they’re finishing top 10 at [the] NCAA meet.”

MA: “Making people faster at swimming. Some come in and could be in the hunt for a national championship. Some people are newer to the sport or grew up in the sport but aren’t going to qualify for nationals. We still want them to get faster.”   

What is it like succeeding coach Lederhouse?

JA: “The alumni think of Wheaton swimming and Jon Lederhouse as synonymous, and that’s our job to stamp our name on its history.”

MA: “We were both mentored by Jon. I worked with him, Jake worked in the office next to him for 20 years. He devoted 41 years to a program, and he’d probably be mad at me for saying this, but I don’t want to let him down.”

What is it like coaching together as husband and wife?

JA: “We’re about to find out!”

MA: “What makes a good marriage is people that complement each other. Our coaching styles do that as well.”

JA: It’s great having different personalities that different swimmers can click with more easily.”

MA: “I think Jake is a little more administratively minded. He’s also the aquatics director here, so he runs the pool and that sort of thing. I can be a little bit louder, and he can be more subtle in certain situations. I think we balance each other in that sense.”

JA: “Meghan has a really good sense of what’s going on behind the scenes. If somebody’s really struggling with something or doesn’t seem quite right, she has intuition. She’s also personable.  the entire team lights up when coach Meghan walks into the room.”

Swimming Recap

This season has been something that Thunder swimming and diving fans have almost come to expect from the incredibly successful men’s and women’s teams. The women won their 20th CCIW Championship, while the men took third place. Over the course of the season, the women were 4-2 and the men were 3-3, with both teams going 3-1 at home.

At the NCAA Championships, the men’s team placed 35th and the women placed 16th. The men had two swimmers qualify for the Championships. Junior Chris Dingfield qualified for the 200-yard breaststroke, 200-yard butterfly and 100-yard butterfly. Sophomore Chris Szymczak qualified for the 200-yard backstroke and 100-yard backstroke. He reached the consolation finals of the 200-yard backstroke, placing 10th.

The women had three swimmers and five team relays qualify for nationals. Senior Erin Bagley swam the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard breaststroke and 100-yard freestyle. She finished seventh in the 100-yard breaststroke and 50-yard freestyle championship finals, earning two individual All-American honors for her effort. Sophomore Brooke Barnes also swam the 100-yard freestyle. Junior Kayla Roberson competed in the 200-yard breaststroke as well as the 200-yard and 400-yard IM.

The relay teams that competed were the 200 and 400-yard medley as well as the 200-, 400- and 800-yard freestyle. Wheaton’s 200-yard medley team entered the consolation finals, coming out in eighth place. The 400-yard free relay, made up of senior Jennifer Barich-Mooday, Barnes, Roberson and Bagley, qualified for the championship finals and earned All-American honors.

This past season also marked the 41st year of head coach Jon Lederhouse and his 49th career CCIW Championship (25 women, 24 men). He was also named CCIW Women’s Coach of the Year. Lederhouse is stepping down as head coach, with Jacob and Meghan Ayers replacing him next season as the men’s and women’s head coaches, respectively.

“I am so excited for them to usher in this new era,” junior Meredith Clarkson explained. “They are so dedicated to swimming, to this team and to God.”

Women win 20th straight

This past weekend, beginning on Thursday, Feb. 9 and extending through Saturday, the Wheaton Thunder swim team competed in the CCIW 2017 Conference Championship meet. Each of the three days began with prelims at 10:30 a.m. and ended with finals beginning at 6 p.m. when the top 16 competitors repeated their morning event.

“Every team in the conference has their strengths, and we need to be aware of them,” sophomore Kristen Garner explained before the Saturday morning prelims. “For the women’s team, our big fight is against the Carthage women for first place. If we step it up today, I think we can win … [If we win], this would be our 20th conference championship win in a row… it’s our coach’s last year, so it would be a big deal for us to win.”

There was, in fact, a “big fight” for first place, and the Wheaton women were victorious with a final score of 791. Carthage women followed closely behind with 745. CCIW 2017 was the Wheaton women’s 20th consecutive win at the conference championship meet.

 

The women’s team achieved their victory through some impressive swims. CCIW named senior Erin Bagley the honor of Co-Swimmer of the Meet, with Illinois Wesleyan University senior Meg Stanley, for their performances. Bagley placed first in three individual events, which included the 50 free, 100 breast and 100 butterfly. CCIW named senior Kayla Roberson as the Outstanding Participant for her victory in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 breast.

Following the announcement of the women’s team’s 20th conference win, the entire women’s team and coaches, including Jon Lederhouse, jumped into the pool. Lederhouse even swam a few yards of backstroke, his specialty. He was a NCAA College Division Champion in the 100 back and a 15-time All-American during his competitive swimming career.

The Wheaton men won third place with numerous exciting swims as well. Junior Chris Dingfield finished first in the 200 butterfly with a time of 1:49.70, which qualified him to compete in the 2017 NCAA Division 3 Championships in Shenandoah, TX in March. Senior Will McCauley came in first for the men’s 400 IM, with a NCAA DIII selected time of 3:59.99, a new personal record for McCauley.

Lederhouse was chosen as Coach of the Year at his last CCIW meet before retirement. All of the coaches from the other teams in the conference dressed up in the same style of polo shirt that has become a trademark of Lederhouse’s within the conference in honor of Lederhouse and all of his incredible accomplishments over the years.

Swim coach Jon Lederhouse approaches the end of final season

After 41 seasons as head coach of the Thunder men’s and women’s swim teams, Jon Lederhouse, a 1974 Wheaton alumnus and four-time All-American, will coach his final conference championship meet this weekend.

“It’s the right time for me to retire and let someone else do a great job — do a better job,” Lederhouse said. “I’m trying to savor my ‘senior moments,’ as I tell the seniors on the team every year. I’ve been working at that aspect of things and trying to enjoy the last one of this and the last one of that.”

Lederhouse announced in September that the 2016-2017 season would be his last; his 41-year tenure makes him one of the longest-serving coaches in Wheaton’s history. Wheaton’s natatorium will be renamed in his honor, officially effective at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.

“[Lederhouse] has established Wheaton as the major small-college swimming power in Illinois, consistently sending our swimmers to the NCAA Division III National Championship finals,” athletic director Julie Davis said regarding the decision to rename the facility. “Equally important … he has been an outstanding Christian leader and mentor to his many student-athletes. His personal devotion to Christ and his commitment to student discipleship has marked hundreds of lives.”

In Lederhouse’s time as head coach, the Wheaton men have swum to 12 top-10 national finishes, won 24 CCIW championships and produced 38 All-Americans. The women’s team has garnered 10 top-10 finishes along with 19 straight CCIW championships and All-American honors for 34 athletes. Lederhouse has been named Coach of the Year numerous times by both the CCIW and the Illinois Swimming Association and has coached a total of 84 All-Americans between swimming, diving and water polo.

According to Lederhouse, none of it had to do with him.

“It’s not my recruiting, it’s not my coaching,” Lederhouse said. “It’s the opportunities God has brought our way.”

Affectionately referred to by many of his athletes as “Coachie,” Lederhouse promotes a coaching philosophy which is based on equal commitment to both athletic and spiritual development.

“[I] try to coach the team so that each swimmer can develop their athletic potential while at the same time growing in their faith in Christ,” Lederhouse said. “Those two are not mutually exclusive, and both need to be addressed equally and effectively.”

For current senior Erin Bagley, this philosophy has been highly influential.

I came into college with my love for swimming at a low, but [Lederhouse’s] view of swimming has entirely reshaped how I view the sport,” Bagley said. “Coachie has this mantra, ‘Free to Swim,’ [which] shapes the culture of our team. The idea of ‘Free to Swim’ is that our identity is found in Christ — Christ defines who we are, not the times we post or the points we score at the conference meet. In this truth, we are free to train and swim our races for the joy of competition and racing, knowing that it doesn’t define us.”

 

Jacob Clement is another senior who has enjoyed the benefit of Lederhouse’s guidance both in and out of the pool. “As my time in college has passed, I’ve learned that Coach Lederhouse is a fountain of wisdom,” Clement said. “In his 40-plus years of coaching, he has experienced so many things and has helped his swimmers overcome so many of their personal and physical problems.  You can go and ask him about anything you want, or even tell him about a problem that you’re having, and based on my personal experience, he has probably already heard of everything that you can think of.”

Though Lederhouse has built one of the strongest and most consistently competitive small-college swimming programs in the country, he also leaves the Wheaton swimming program with a more personal legacy. It is conversations spoken in his office, stories told on drives to and from meets and advice handed out beyond the pool deck which compose the legacy that his swimmers talk about the most.

“One of the best things about Coachie is that he could be considered equally a counselor and a coach,” Bagley said. “He cares far more about the person we are when we finish our four years and walk away from the pool than the times we post while in the pool … That’s the thing about Coachie. He looks at each of us and sees us as children of God first, and swimmers of his second.”

Lederhouse’s athletes unfailingly mention his habit of responding to their stories with advice in the form of other stories. Perhaps fittingly, then, he describes his proudest achievements as a coach using the story of Seabiscuit, the famous racehorse who became an unexpected champion during the Great Depression era.

Harv Chrouser was the athletic director when I was first working here and he had a saying to the coaches: ‘You’ve got to get the blue chips, because you can’t beat Seabiscuit with a mule,’” Lederhouse said, referring to process of recruiting talented athletes to compete at Wheaton. “But you know what? I’ve been fortunate to have some Seabiscuits, but in Wheaton swimming we’ve had lots of mules who have become Seabiscuits … That’s probably what I’ve enjoyed the most, is seeing the mules become Seabiscuits.”

After he coaches his last meet at NCAA Nationals this March, Lederhouse will be permanently stepping away from the pool which will bear his name.

“Whoever the new coach is, it has to be their program … You can’t have the old coach milling about and creating potential divided loyalties, so that will be hard. I won’t be able to watch what’s going on,” Lederhouse said. “Unless I get a remote camera.”

After his four years as a swimmer and four decades as a coach, Wheaton swimming is “very special” to Lederhouse. The only thing more special, he emphasizes, is being married to Wheaton education professor Dr. Jillian Lederhouse for 41 years. The athletic department’s decision to rename the natatorium came as a surprise and an honor for him. In his typical storytelling fashion, Lederhouse turned to Shakespeare to sum up his feelings about the event.
“It’s nice to have the name; that’s a significant honor and I’m very flattered by that,” Lederhouse said. “[But] I tried to make the point using a Shakespeare quote: a pool by any other name would still smell of chlorine.”

Winning stroke by stroke

This past weekend was taxing for the Wheaton Thunder swimming and diving team with back-to-back meets Friday and Saturday. Friday was a dual meet with Olivet Nazarene University in which Wheaton saw seven victories, but lost the overall meet.

The women’s team lost 115-80 and the men’s 115-82. They did, however, perform very well in multiple events. The Wheaton women and men both won the 200 yard freestyle relay. Juniors Carrie Bai and Noah Cameron, senior Sarah Oldach and freshman Amy Robison together claimed a time of 1:46.09. The men’s team of junior Chris Dingfield, freshman Cleveland Speece and sophomores Evan Cameron and Sam Price secured victory with a 1:31.18. Junior Kayla Roberson smoked the competition with a time of 4:34.40, finishing a full seven seconds ahead. Senior Will McCauley also finished way ahead of Olivet with a time of 4:16.29 in the 400-yard individual medley. Senior Erin Bagley beat Roberson by one second in the 100-yard breastroke. It was a solid effort by the Thunder, but they would do even better as the weekend proceeded.

Saturday saw them sweep the tri-meet with North Central and Augustana. The Wheaton men beat Augustana by a narrow margin of 129-125 and a wide margin of 189-41 over North Central. The women crushed North Central by a score of 176-67 and defeated Augustana 200-62. The women’s team was led by Bagley as she racked up wins in the 100-yard backstroke, 50 and 100-yard freestyle.

 

The Thunder diving team also represented well. Junior Abby Prince took first in the three-meter with 410.15 and sophomore Tyler Yates won the one-meter with 311.35 points. These impressive scores give them a solid foundation as they head into CCIW tournament competition.

This season is the last for head coach Jon Lederhouse as he heads into retirement following the season’s conclusion. In honor of his highly successful 41 years of coaching, the Trustees of Wheaton College have decided to rename the Chrouser Natatorium after him.

“He has been an outstanding Christian leader and mentor to his many student-athletes,” said Julie Davis, Wheaton’s Director of Athletics. “His personal devotion to Christ and his commitment to student discipleship has marked hundreds of lives.”

The new title of Jonathan Lederhouse Natatorium will take effect at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The Thunder’s diving team will look to add to the trophy case this Friday and Saturday in Bloomington, Ill. as the CCIW Diving Championships commence. The swimming team will compete in their own CCIW Swimming Championships from Feb. 9 to Feb. 11.

Eat my bubbles

Over the past couple weeks Wheaton’s men and women’s swimming teams have been kept busy with a quad meet against Hope, Kalamazoo and Lake Forest, as well as an away meet against Carthage.
Last Saturday, the team swept the quad meet with the men racking up 546 points and the women’s team grabbing 552 points. Both teams won first.

 

For the men, the Thunder’s 400-yard relay team of junior Addison Coen, sophomore Daniel Deysher, junior Chris Dingfield and senior Jacob Clement placed first in their race with a time of 3:33:55. Junior Jack O’Connor then won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21.42 seconds. Afterwards, O’Connor also won the 100-yard freestyle race with a time of 47.36 seconds.

 

In the 200-yard freestyle, senior Jacob Clement finished in first with a time of 1:46.76. Junior Chris Dingfield won his 200-yard butterfly race in a time of 1:57:82. Senior Will McCauley also won his race, the 1,000-yard freestyle, in a time of 10:08.84.

 

On the women’s side, Wheaton’s 400-yard medley team also came in first with a time of 4:02.36. The medley team consisted of junior Meredith Clarkson, junior Kayla Roberson, senior Erin Bagley and freshman Maggie Franke.

 

In the individual race, Roberson won the 200-yard breaststroke with a time of 2:26.11 and the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:10.28. Her 200-yard individual medley performance set a new meet record for the race.

 

Bagley also won the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 24.71 seconds and the 100-yard freestyle in 54.20 seconds. In the 200-yard butterfly, freshman Liz George placed first with a time of 2:13.71.
A week later, the Thunder traveled to Carthage College to take on the Red Men and the Lady Reds. Ultimately, the men lost a hard-fought battle to the Red Men by a score of 202-92.

 

Leading the way for the Thunder was Chris Dingfield with a victory in the 200-yard butterfly with a time of 1:55.71 and the 100-yard backstroke in 51.57 seconds. Sophomore Chris Szymczak won the 200-yard backstroke in a time of 1:54.33. Senior Will McCauley also won the 500-yard freestyle with a time of 4:51.40. The relay team of seniors Clement, Szymczak, junior O’Connor and sophomore Daniel Deysher also won with a time of 3:11.16.

 

The women’s team swam extremely well and left Carthage with a 171-127 victory in hand. The 200-yard medley relay team of seniors Erin Bagley, Sarah Oldach, Jen Barich-Mooday and junior Kayla Roberson won with a time 1:50:57. The 400-yard quartet freestyle of Roberson, Barich-Mooday, Bagley and sophomore Brooke Barnes also won their race with a time of 3:36.94.

 

Freshman Ashley Bowen scorched the field in her 1,000-yard freestyle with a time of 11:21.67, over 13 seconds faster than the second place finisher. Roberson won the 200-yard and 500-yard freestyles and Bagley won the 100-yard backstroke and 200-yard backstroke races. Barnes, Clarkson and George also emerged victorious.

 

“I’ve been really proud of the way so many people have stepped up in their races these past two weeks,” Bagley explained after the Carthage meet. “As we start closing in on conference, we’re really focusing on perfecting our races and finishing well, and it’s really fun to see how excited everyone’s getting for the end of the season.”


Looking ahead, the Thunder will be taking on Olivet Nazarene this Friday in what will amount to this year’s seniors final home meet.

First to 5

She looks down into the pool from her spot on the starting block. Even as a senior, the butterflies in her stomach have not completely dissipated. They may have gotten smaller than the ones inhabiting her stomach during freshman year, but there is no doubt that they’re still there. She adjusts her goggles and swim cap and thinks, “This is going to hurt really bad.”

The preparation for the national championships has already been completed and for a test like this, there can be no cramming. Stretching? Breathing exercises? Prayer? Check, check and check. Now all that’s left is the swim.

But first, how did she get to this prestigious position?

Kirsten Nitz grew up playing any and all sports possible in her hometown of Frankfort, Ky. At age eight, Nitz joined a club swimming program, adding to a list of sports that also included cross country, soccer and a host of other sports.
In eighth grade, Nitz had physical pain in her feet and was diagnosed with sever’s disease, which caused her Achilles tendons to tear off the heel bone and break it. Nitz was forced to use crutches and could no longer play any sport involving contact. However, due to swimming’s low impact, the 14-year-old Nitz did not have to give up her best sport.

“It was frustrating to not be able to do other sports that I loved because I kept thinking my heels would get better,” Nitz explained, “but eventually it helped make the decision easier.”

The decision she refers to was the choice to give her life completely to the sport of swimming. As a homeschooled student, this task was made easier since she could easily tailor her education schedule and classes to intense swimming regimens and practice schedules. Her success was validated the summer before her senior year of high school when Nitz was recruited by numerous Division I programs, including the University of Kentucky.

In truth, the DI lifestyle did not appeal to Nitz. Plus, these DI schools did not have something that a certain liberal arts school in Wheaton, Ill. did – legacy. Nitz’s grandparents, parents, cousins and siblings had attended Wheaton College and her older brother, Jordan ‘13, was a current student at that time.

“Ultimately it came down to knowing that swimming was only going to last four more years,” Nitz explained. “The friends I made and the education I got here (at Wheaton) was going to weigh a lot heavier on my life than swimming.”

Before beginning her freshman year, Nitz qualified for every swimmer’s dream: the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke. Even though her times were not ideal, the experience taught her how to deal with high-pressure meets, a skill that she utilized throughout her college career. During the Trials, she was inspired by some of swimming’s biggest names, including Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.

This experience paid off as Nitz flourished under the guidance of Wheaton head swimming coach Jon Lederhouse.

“The fact that Wheaton is DIII is really special because no one is there because they’re being paid to be there,” said Nitz, “so that makes it a group of people who really want to be there.”

During her freshman year, Nitz didn’t exhibited any ‘rookie jitters’ as she grabbed three individual national championships in the 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly and 200-yard backstroke.

Her sophomore experience at the national championships had a much different look. After vomiting all night with the stomach flu, Nitz still wanted to swim in her best event, the 100-yard butterfly. With an empty stomach and vision bordering on blurry, Nitz was slumped in a chair before stumbling her way onto the starting block right before the race started. The last thing she remembers was barely being able to steady herself before somehow diving into the pool to begin the race.

“It was 100 percent God’s power that worked through me and not my own. That day I set the national record in the 100-yard butterfly and it was so obviously not anything that I could have done,” Nitz said. “God’s power is made perfect in our weakness and this was a great example of that.”

Practically collapsing after the conclusion of the swim, this performance was truly one for the books. Nitz’s 52.64 second 100-yard butterfly still stands as the DIII national record. She also owns the DIII national record for the 50-yard freestyle.

Now, back to 2016 and Nitz on the swimming block. The muscles of the senior swimmer twitch as she prepares to unleash every ounce of effort on her prized swim, the 100-yard butterfly. As the signal is given to start the race, the swimmers jump off the blocks and feel the cold rush of water hit their faces. Nitz puts her head down and plows ahead, confident with her strokes. Her father once told her, “The person who wants it more will win.” Over the past few years, there is no doubt that Nitz has wanted the 100-yard butterfly more. The only thing able to stop her was a junior year false-start.

She touches the wall and turns for home with 50 yards of water standing between her and another national championship trophy.

She’s experienced many successes throughout her swimming career, but it has definitely come at a steep cost. Summer camps were never viable and some friendships fell to the wayside due to the incredible amount of time she spent in the pool.

“I love swimming,” Nitz explained, but “it’s not one of those sports where the more you practice, the better you’re going to get at every championship meet. I had meets where I trained and worked really hard, but didn’t see the results that I wanted … at the same time, it is really exciting to set goals for yourself and then see the hard work pay off.”

As Nitz’s hands meet the wall signaling the end of the race, she looks up and down the length of the pool. Again, she has beaten the entire field and claimed her fifth individual national championship, a school record. In the coming months, she will graduate and potentially move on to a career as a women’s health nurse practitioner. But for now, Nitz can relax and enjoy her victory. For the last time in her career, she is the indisputable queen of the pool.