Dixie State University women’s swim team took a deep breath and dove head first into its first season in DSU’s history.
DSU women’s swim team started its season Oct. 7 and will compete in five more swim meets until the conference championship meet Mar. 8.
The new swim team is almost a full freshmen team made up of 14 freshmen and three transfer sophomores. The team currently practices at the Washington City Community Center, typically at 5:30 a.m., and will continue to until the Human Performance Building is built.
DSU athletic director Jason Boothe said head swim coach Benjamin Rae was able to recruit a bigger team than the athletic department had anticipated for the swim program’s first year.
About half the women on the swim team are from Utah and the rest of the team comes from Arizona, Washington, Wyoming and Alaska.
Rae said 17 is still a small number for a swim team, but one of the reasons DSU is so attractive in its first swim season is because there is a need for competitive swimming.
“[Swimming programs] are a need that is out there,” Rae said. “There is a lot of kids who want to compete in swimming and there is a lack of [swimming] programs.”
Boothe agreed there is a need for competitive swimming, plus, there are good swimmers in Utah and competitors are close.
DSU’s women’s swim team is one of 13 teams in the Pacific Collegiate Swimming and Diving Conference.
Rae said the PCSC is kind of a catch-all conference because the conference features teams as small as Division III, many other Division II schools like DSU, and a couple bigger schools at the Division I level, one that is nationally ranked even. He said it is hard to know where DSU will fit in the conference.
“Make no mistake — I am a competitive person,” Rae said. “I want to win, and so our goal is to be the middle of the conference right off the bat, even with a limited number of swimmers.”
This first year team’s weaknesses are going to be in individual medley races in the breast and butterfly strokes, but its strengths will be races in the backstroke and middle distance free-style stroke, Rae said.
One of Rae’s main goals for this first season is to make sure the team functions as a team.
“Even though you race mostly individually, you train together, you travel together, and so teams who have good chemistry are just going to be better,” Rae said.
Audrey Parrish, a freshman dental hygiene major from Wenatchee, Washington, said she thinks this first season is going well and the team gets along great, which makes things a lot easier.
“We are all willing to push each other, give constructive criticism and expecting each other to be competitive,” Parrish said.
Rae said the biggest challenge for the team this year will be getting up to speed with future recruits. The DSU swim team has already four prospect recruits who have times faster than everyone the entire current team.
“Once we get through our first year, people will understand what we are going to be about and what it is going to take to [be apart of this program],” Rae said.
The Trailblazers came in sixth place out of eight teams at the three-day Colorado Mesa Winter Invitational Thursday-Saturday in Grand Junction, Colorado. They finalized their point total at 354, and nearly every DSU swimmer finished their races with season-best times thus far.
The Trailblazers placed ahead of Division II competitors Colorado State University-Pueblo at 204 points and Adams State University at 81 points. The Trailblazers finished behind by about 100 points to two Division I schools: University of Wyoming, who scored 448 points, and Brigham Young University, who were at 466 points.
Assistant swim coach Jamie Beckstrand said the team has been phenomenal as a first-year program.
“They are really rising to the level they need to be at,” Beckstrand said.
Beckstrand said Rae has been a fantastic coach and that his greatest quality as a coach is his patience.
“[Rae]has trained teams that have gone to Olympics trials, and so I think he has had to hold back a lot,” Beckstrand said. “He has been patient building from where [these women] are.”
The Trailblazers’ next meet will be their only home meet against Colorado Mesa University Jan. 7 at 3 p.m. at the Washington City Community Center.