The Carleton Swim and Dive program has been a consistently strong competitor across all events since its creation. Both the men’s and women’s teams have been awarded individual and team accolades for their prowess in the water, in addition to being designated as CSCAA Scholar All-America squads. In fact, the Carleton men’s and women’s teams are the only MIAC squads, of either gender, to take home this recognition every year since Spring 2011. So, in a sense, success by both squads wouldn’t be much of a surprise this coming season. Rather, it would be expected. However, there is an elephant in the room. There is a big question mark which no one can fully answer at this stage, because there hasn’t been a precedent for quite some time. This season, for the first time since 2013, the Carleton Men’s Swim team will have an added Diving squad.
Men’s diving at the NCAA level, particularly Division III, certainly doesn’t receive quite the same attention as other sports. It doesn’t even receive as much attention as other events the swim team competes in. However, the Knights will be absorbing three male divers into their ranks, two sophomores and one first-year. Phil Donnelly and Zach Lewis comprise the sophomore group. Luke El-Fishawy is the lone freshman.
As with any young and inexperienced team, the potential for growing pains is always there. “My hope is that I don’t smack the water hard during our first meet,” said Donnelly. “Everyone needs to get better, but we would feel accomplished if everyone has a good time together for the first time. I am excited to see how we’ve progressed through our training. Whatever the result is, we are looking forward to building on it.”
The first opportunity for the men’s team to showcase their newfound skill sets will be Friday, October 18 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. On October 26, the Cows, Colleges and Contentment Classic will take place in both St. Olaf’s Skoglund Natatorium and Carleton’s Thorpe Pool. All diving will take place at Carleton, so the men will have the chance to put on an early-season display in their own building. Following the October 26 meet, they will dive on back-to-back days at Macalester College and against the University of St. Thomas. Those meets will take place on Friday, November 8 and Saturday, November 9.
Those meets will be the last ones taking place during Fall term. However, the Knights will be competing at Grinnell in the Pioneer Classic on December 6 and 7. Following the program training trip to Puerto Rico, which also takes place in December, the team will begin MIAC competitions in January. They will compete against Gustavus Adolphus College, Saint John’s University and St. Olaf again before the Minnesota Challenge at the University of Minnesota at the end of January. The MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships will be held February 12 to February 15.
For Lewis, the small and supportive team atmosphere has been rewarding. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of a small team, learning difficult and sometimes painful dives with fun, driven people around me to cheer me on,” he said. Though for him, and the rest of the team, winning appears to be a priority. “I’m most looking forward to getting to use the skills I’ve been working with my teammates to hopefully earn some points for Carleton.”
If the Knights dive team can qualify and perform well enough at the MIAC Championships, the NCAA Diving Regionals will take place on February 28 and February 29. A little less than a month later, the young team would have the chance to compete in the Division III Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina.
The Dive team is led by Coach Gabe Kortuem. This is his second stint as diving coach for the Knights, the first since the program was revitalized. His last stint finished at the end of the 2013 season. Coach Kortuem certainly knows what it takes to bring his squad to success, as he himself was a national champion on the 1-meter board as a member of the St. Olaf team of 2002. He established the NCAA Division III Championships 1-meter record with a remarkable score of 557.90. As a coach, he has been voted MIAC Diving Coach of the Year seven times, as recently as last season. Many of his athletes have qualified for the NCAA Division III national meet.
Given the positive attitudes of the team and Coach Kortuem’s leadership and experience, there’s no reason the Carleton Men’s Dive team can’t become a successful team in their first season. Next Friday at St. Thomas, they will have a shot at obtaining some recognition. But regardless of what happens this season, the revitalization of the male dive team provides the opportunity for a wider variety of athletes to participate in the sport. There is only progress to be made.