Women’s Swimming: Northwestern can’t keep up with Ohio State, Nebraska on senior day

Anna Kottenstette, Reporter

As tears were shed and seniors were honored, the crowd of classmates, friends and family who had gathered at the Norris Aquatic Center couldn’t help but laugh at this year’s apparent senior week trend: Fat Head posters.

But instead of featuring the notable faces of NU alumni, like those seen at NU basketball games, the underclassmen swimmers honored and embarrassed several of the seniors with larger than life pictures of their faces.

“Luckily my group only made small handheld signs,” senior Taylor Reynolds said. “But the Fat Head trend was definitely fun this year.”

Though a silly display of appreciation, the posters allude to a deeper sentiment: the light-hearted energy that this year’s senior class has provided their team.

“They’ve brought a lot of great character and humor,” coach Jimmy Tierney said. “They keep us going as coaches; they make us smile and add a lot of heart and soul to the team. There’s been a really fun energy around practice everyday with this class and we’ll miss them.”

But no one can miss them just yet.

Although the seniors’ competitive career in Evanston has ended, there is still much work to be done before the Wildcats compete in the Big Ten Championships, Feb. 20 through 23.

The Northwestern Invitational last Saturday provided the Cats their final opportunity to identify weaknesses that need to be strengthened before the Big Ten meet. Though race times were consistent with those from this time last year, the Cats aren’t prepared to settle for another Big Ten fifth place.

After two days and three event sessions, the Cats ultimately fell to both Nebraska and No. 20 Ohio State with scores of 198-171 and 228-130, respectively.

“Some of our girls really shined brightly and some of them were a little worn out from the training. I didn’t really know what to expect with the other teams,” Tierney said.  “It would have taken a great effort to beat Ohio State and we were disappointed to lose to Nebraska, but they out-swam us today.”

Despite an overall NU Invite loss, the Cats produced results that show potential for the future.

The 200-yard medley relay team, comprised of freshman Karen Turner, senior Katie McCullough, sophomore Valerie Nubbe and Reynolds, clocked a third place time of 1:43.74, only nine one-hundredths of a second off their season-best time.

With two weeks of training left, the Cats have plenty of time and potential to improve their events and mentally prepare for their final team competition.

“We’ll take it a little easy and recharge our batteries. I think they will start getting sharper and sharper over the next couple weeks,” Tierney said. “This is an up and down time and sometimes it gets worse before it gets better, but the other side is always something pretty special.”

With the emotion of Senior Week behind them, the senior class can now begin focusing on what will actually be its last NU-affiliated meet. Though they have said their goodbyes to the Norris Aquatic Center, they haven’t yet fulfilled their most important obligation: leading the underclassmen in a successful championship meet.

But Tierney is not concerned about their ability to make that happen.

“They’re a great group of outstanding student-athletes,” Tierney said. “They’ve had tremendous success in the classroom, great success in the pool, and have overall represented NU very, very well. I’m proud of what they’ve done and have no doubt they’ll do well in two weeks.”