After finishing the majority of their Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schedule, the Ashland University men's and women's swimming teams are preparing to face Division I competition at the Eastern Michigan Invitational on Friday and Saturday (Nov. 2-3).
"(The EMU Invite) is going to be a good benchmark of where we stand, because the kids on the team are going to treat it more seriously," first-year head coach Ron Allen said. "It will be a bigger setup and venue. The nervousness that some people will experience in a championship meet is going to be more present."
In a fall invitational to open the season, the Eagle men placed second of four GLIAC teams. They've since won two of three conference dual meets.
"We're taking pretty big steps to get where we want to be pretty quickly," Allen said.
The Eagle women placed third at the fall invite and won one of three GLIAC dual meets.
"Our entire team is continuing to progress," Allen said. "We're working on the psychological side of things and trying to get them to put the pressure on themselves now instead of waiting until the conference championships. That's foreign for a lot of these kids."
During the first portion of the season, there are names that have regularly been seen at the top of the standings in both individual and relay events. For the men, senior John Scalli, junior Ryan Deemer and sophomore Ben Keilholz have all had a good amount of success. And for the women, juniors Grace Reichard and Zoe Scarpone continue to place at the top of their events.
"There are a handful of swimmers you'd look at who have the best chance at making nationals," Allen said. "But I want to make sure that the people who are struggling to score in our conference know that they matter. Even if they're not in a position to score, they can still be contributing members of the team by pushing others to succeed."
Allen, who accepted the job at Ashland within a month of the first meet, has big plans for the future.
"Our numbers are small right now," he said. "Ideally, we're going to get close to doubling our numbers in the next two to three years. But because our team is small and the right people are here, our athletes have bought in to having a new coach pretty well and better than I thought they would."