KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — The Western Illinois University Leatherneck swim teams wrapped up their 2018 calendar year on Saturday, a year that has seen this squad’s individuals post elite-level production across the board. This ultra-talented young roster battled Truman State in an attempt to keep their momentum rolling into January. The Bulldogs posed a tough matchup, but Western gave it their best go, securing 11 different event wins.
They faced some stiff competition last time out in the annual House of Champions dual-meet in Indianapolis, going up against schools like Cincinnati, U-Conn and Eastern Illinois, among others. The Purple and Gold flourished in the three-day event, setting at an impressive 13 top-10 school records. Record-breaking performances came with ease for this ever-improving roster. Perhaps the most eye-popping finish came at the hands of freshman Adam Peterson, who notched a time of 20.61 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle, good for second-best all-time at Western Illinois. That was just the start of the Leathernecks’ record-setting trend. Junior Miranda Mathus’ efforts stood out as well with a 2:09.47 finish in the 200-yard individual medley, fourth-best time in school history.
The Purple and Gold stayed hot in their trip to Truman State. The women’s team, while they were able to string together yet another strong outing, faced troubles with the Bulldogs. Truman State is a school known for their successful swimming program, and this year is no exception. While Western unfortunately ended up dropping this one 160-90, there were positive takeaways from several Leathernecks. One swimmer that saw herself victorious was Erica Hagen, who posted a time of 1:07.75 in the 100-yard breaststroke.
Marissa Purdum got a win of her own in the 50-yard freestyle, being the first to touch after 25.05 seconds. Perhaps the biggest performance for this team, however, came from Mathus in the 200-yard freestyle. She was the lone finisher under the two-minute-mark, good for another top finish. Mathus, despite their defeat as a team, remained optimistic about the future of the team and the growth they’ve seen thus far.
“I am pleased to see that some of the things that we are working on in practice are starting to show up in their races,” Mathus said. “We’ve got a decent amount of time off before our next meet to really work on putting everything together for our races from start to finish.”
For the men’s team, they impressed right from the get-go and were particularly successful in their relay events. The squad was able to come away with wins in the 200-yard medley with a time of 1:35.30, along with the 200-yard freestyle medley where they managed a 1:26.66 mark.
The team that took home the top finish in the 200-yard medley was comprised Brennan Bladel, Chance McQuigg, Samir Almhiemid and Adam Peterson. The lineup for the 200-yard freestyle medley largely featured the same members, aside from Phillip Kudela, who swam in the No. 2 spot. Their efforts came up just short against the Bulldogs, dropping the meet 142-115.
Bladel, who has been arguably the team’s best swimmer this year, joined the win column for Leathernecks with two wins of his own in the 100-yard and 200-yard backstrokes. Other notable first-place finishes from the Purple and Gold came from McQuigg and Peterson, who bested their competition in the 200-yard breast stroke and 50-yard freestyle, respectively.
One giant takeaway from this program near the season’s midway point is the production from Western’s freshman class. The potential this class carries for the team’s current and future success should have fans excited for what is to come in January. The Leathernecks will open the new year in Brophy Hall on Jan. 11 and 12. They are set to face off South Dakota State on Friday at 6 p.m. before a short turnaround against South Dakota and Eastern Illinois the following morning at 11 a.m.
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