Wildcat swimming and diving conclude historic season at MIAC championship

The St. Catherine University swimming and diving team captured its first Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Championship title on February 15, closing out the four-day meet with fifteen top-times for a team score of 700.5 and edging out the second-place University of St. Thomas by 36.5 points.

The Wildcats delivered a dominating performance at the championships, held at the University of Minnesota’s Jean K. Freeman Aquatic Center. St. Kate's finished with fifteen event titles, three runner-up titles, and finished third in another three events as nine swimmers earned MIAC All-Conference honors and four earned All-Conference Honorable Mention. For the second year in a row, sophomore Jordyn Wentzel '22 earned MIAC Women's Swimmer of the Year, while head swimming and diving coach Justin Zook was named MIAC Women's Coach of the Year for the third consecutive season.

In the past three seasons, St. Kate's has climbed the rankings, finishing fifth overall in 2017 with a team score of 282 and again in 2018 with a score of 356. Just one year later, at the 2019 championships, St. Catherine secured a third-place finish, scoring an outstanding 587 points. This season, they secured another 113.5 points to achieve the program's overall best-performance at the conference meet.

Student athletes earn accolades across the board
The sophomore class took the championships by storm, led by Wentzel finishing first in each of the seven events she appeared in. Wentzel's top performance of the meet came in the 200-yard breaststroke, where she broke the NCAA Division III record with a time of 2:11.85. She also set a MIAC meet and program record, as the previous record of 2:12.20 had been in place for four years. Wentzel competed in the championship’s four relay events, claiming first in the 200-yard medley relay, the 800-yard freestyle relay, the 400-yard medley relay, and the 400-yard freestyle relay. She claimed three individual titles in the 200-yard individual medley, 100-yard breaststroke, and the 200-yard breaststroke.

Sophomore Amelia Baxley ’22 secured two individual titles at the championship, while also assisting St. Kate's to three relay titles, plus a runner-up finish in the 200-yard freestyle relay. Macy Klein ’22 also earned two individual titles and three relay titles, and was a member of the 200-yard freestyle team. Maggie Menso ’22 captured three individual titles and two relay team titles, defending her title in the 200-yard, 500-yard, and 1,650-yard freestyle events. Rounding out the sophomores was Hannah Svendsen ’22, taking home the first-place title in the 400-yard individual medley, the runner-up in the 200-yard butterfly, and third place in the 200-yard individual medley.

At the end of the championship, seven Wildcats earned invitations to compete in twelve events at the 2020 National Collegiate Athletic Conference (NCAA) Swimming & Diving Championships, led by Wentzel for the second year and scheduled to appear in six events. Also invited for the second consecutive year was Klein in five events and Menso in four, while Svendsen, Sydney Grohman ’21 and Franceska Hernandez-Nietling ’21 were set to appear in one relay event each. Baxley was also selected to appear in four events at the four-day championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. However, three days before the seven swimmers and the coaching staff were going to depart for the 2020 Championships, the NCAA announced the cancellation of the winter and spring championships due to COVID-19.

All seven swimmers selected to participate in the NCAA Division III Swimming & Diving Championships were named All-Americans. Grohman, Klein, Menso, and Wentzel return to the list of All-Americans for the second consecutive year, with Baxley, Hernandez-Nietling, and Svendsen all being recognized for the first time in their careers.

At the season’s conclusion, St. Catherine University was ranked 11th in Division III and fourth in the central region. Underscoring the team's success in the pool, Klein earned the MIAC Elite 22 award, which honors the student athlete who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the conference championship level in their sport, while also achieving the highest academic standard among their peers. The team also earned recognition for holding the top GPA in both men's and women's Division III swimming and diving, with an outstanding 3.77 cumulative GPA.

By Lindsay Madryga