Poolside with Women’s Swimming and Diving’s historic season


Skye Schmit ’26 swims against Luther College. Photo courtesy of Macalester

Noah Riccardi, Sports Editor

Women’s Swimming and Diving’s outstanding performances have headlined the 2022-23 athletic year for Macalester so far. The 2021-22 season was already one of incredible improvement — the Scots improved their score in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) championship meet by more than any other team in the conference. That season set the groundwork for a historic start to the current one.

In 2022, these Scots started off the season with two straight wins, both in dominant fashion, defeating Luther College and The College of Saint Benedict in home dual meets, a format which gave the Scots trouble in 2021-22 — last season, they went 1-4 in such meets.

These meets highlighted the Scots’ talent and potential — the Scots took victory in 22 of the 26 possible events between the two meets. In the first race of the season, the Scots’ individual winning team in the 200-yard medley consisted of two sophomores and two first-years. Standout performances came from Kate Yehle ’25, who won all four diving events across both meets, and from Skye Schmit ’26, who also won four total individual events and was named MIAC Women’s swimmer of the week two straight weeks for her heroics in the 500 yard and 1000-yard freestyle events.

Their next foe, Carleton College, had proved a historical match for the Scots — before the meet, Macalester had never beaten the Knights in a dual meet in the program’s history. The Scots entered the meet with a sense of the moment and with a sense of determination and purpose.

“Everyone was aware that we’d never beaten [Carleton], so there was a little bit of pressure there but also excitement, like ‘we want to get them and we can,’” Sonya Green ’25 said.

The Scots opened the meet with a win in the 200-yard medley, and never looked back. The Scots rose to the historic occasion and won authoritatively, carrying off 14 of 16 possible events in the meet to win
198-96, rewriting MIAC history with aplomb. They were powered by a trio of first-year multiple victories: from Emma Henry ’26 in the 200-yard backstroke and 200-yard freestyle, from Schmit once again taking both distance events, and from Izzy Uhlhorn-Thornton ’26 winning three individual events with in the 200-yard individual medley and the 200-yard and 100-yard breaststroke events, to go along with her contribution to the winning 200-yard medley relay.

“I don’t know if we were entirely anticipating it, but we definitely knew how strong the team was getting this year, so it was on the table going in, but it still felt really good,” Ellie Parker ’25 said. “That was one of the first moments where we were all like, ‘whoa, we can do something this year.’”

“Afterwards, everyone was really excited about all the hard work we’ve put in to come out on top of them, knowing that we didn’t last year and we did it this year,” Green said.

After the ceremonial Hour of Power relay, the Scots made the short trip over to face neighborhood rivals St. Catherine University. Here, the Scots faced their first loss, 126-164. Despite the result, it was still a sign of massive growth — they were able to make it close with St. Kate’ s, a MIAC powerhouse school which consistently ranks in the top 25 of D-III Swimming and Diving.

After bouncing back with another impressive display vs Hamline University, highlighted by double wins from Schmit and from Green, the Scots contested the Roger Ahlman meet at home and put a cap on the first half of the season with a sparkling win. Macalester’s swimmers put in some of their biggest performances of the season; the first day of competition saw two school records fall, in the 400-yard medley and the 800- yard freestyle events. The next day, Henry set another program record, this time in the 200-yard backstroke. Among the eight teams that the Scots defeated in this meet was St. Kate’s, showcasing improvement within the season, and the strength in multiteam meets that characterized previous seasons for the Scots.

The Scots opened up 2023 with another win in a six-team meet in Decorah, Iowa. The Scots took 4 individual events, including Schmit winning the 1000-yard freestyle, and Jocelyn Radke ’24 taking first in the 50-yard butterfly and second in the 50-yard backstroke.

Their next meet was a close loss to a strong St. Olaf College squad where the Scots won seven events out of 16 and fell just short, 134- 166. One of those wins was from Schmit in the 1000-yard, who set a MIAC leading time for the season of 10:48.77, over 15 seconds better than the next-best competitor.

The dramatic improvement that has seen the Scots sail into conference-wide prominence has undoubtedly been one of the chief storylines of this swim/dive season. However, another of the main driving forces behind the success of the team has been the camaraderie and team spirit from each swimmer. Go to a meet, and you’ll see it. Even in a sport where most performances are solitary, each swimmer trying to make the best individual effort possible, even during grueling, 11-minute 1000-yard swims, the team is constantly cheering, motivating whoever is in the pool at the time.

“Especially here at Mac, we make an effort to be a family and to know each other . . . there’s just something about swim, we know we’ve all done this for a while, it’s really hard, it can be really lonely and individual because you don’t get to talk to anybody while you’re doing it,” Parker said.

“In practice, you start to build the people who you know will push you and support you when you’re having a bad day, and the people that will celebrate with you when you’re having a good day,” Green said. “When it comes to a meet, although everyone swims their own race, everyone else is also swimming their own race, so they know exactly how it feels to be nervous about trying to go a time you really want to go, so everyone, when they step away from their own race and support other people with their own races, they’re very understanding and empathetic, and it’s very positive and supportive.”

Another of the key pieces of this team has been the contribution of the first-years, who have all stepped up in a big way.

“Oh my gosh, they’re all incredible, they’re all ridiculous,” Parker said. “It’s kinda scary in a weird way . . . I think a few years ago, people wouldn’t want to race against us because we weren’t that good and now it’s like, ‘oh, we’re really really good now.’”

Outside of the first-years who win multiple races and headline MIAC’s awards, like Schmit, Uhlhorn-Thornton and Henry, Head Coach Kyllian Griffin also mentioned the depth found within the first-years and transfers who are new to the program this year as well as within the entire squad.

“Jamie Carlberg [’26] on diving . . . Eleanor Petrin [’25], Nadia Lanz [’26], a first year as well, [Hannah Zurn ’26], those are some depth swimmers; they’re not winning every event, but they’re finishing second, finishing third every week, which is how you win meets,” Griffin said. “It’s great to win individual events, and we can’t do it with one great swimmer, and so the depth of our team as a whole has been one of our strengths, and that’s on the whole from first-years to seniors.”

Griffin has also been instrumental in the team’s success, especially in keeping up morale and motivation. The swim/dive season is one of the longest athletic seasons on campus, running from the first meets in October through the NCAA D-III championships in March.

“He’s great. He’s been a really good driving force keeping us energized and positive going into the back half of the season,” Parker said.

“He is very aware of the big picture of us becoming a more competitive team in the conference, but he also knows the pressure that can [be] put on us as individuals, and that we are student athletes and we go to a school where we have to spend a lot of time not focusing on swimming,” Green said. “He does a really good job of helping us balance everything . . . like ‘we’re getting more competitive but don’t worry about it, you’re putting in the work, and we’ll work on it in practice, and when you’re not in practice focus on school.’”

For the rest of the season, the Scots will have one more dual meet against Grinnell College on Jan. 28, and then will shift into championship season, where the cumulative meets of the year will take place.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting end to the year. We only have one dual meet left . . . this Saturday against Grinnell, it should be very competitive on both sides, it should be a lot of fun, it’s Senior Day, then we have our championship meet season,” Griffin said.

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