Swim Team Wraps up Inaugural Season with Success

Reported by Jen Wright

The first George Fox University (GFU)  swim team wrapped up their first competitive season on Feb. 10, finishing eighth in the Northwest Conference (NWC) Championships.

“In general, our goals for this season were to be competitive in our first year and to build a team from the very bottom,” said Coach Natalie Turner.

At the beginning of the season, the objective was to create a team culture and a cohesive group out of a lot of different swimming backgrounds. Making the transition to college swimming can be difficult, Turner said.

“There was a lot that was unexpected on our swimmers’ side,” said Turner. “It’s different than club swimming, it’s different than a high school experience they might have had, and so starting off college swimming there was a lot of just different expectations of what the year was going to look like.”

The team, which spent the 2017-2018 season only training, beat Pacific University in the Jan. 26 meet, scoring 198 to 159.

“They all really stepped up and did an amazing job with it, which was really cool,” said Turner. “By the time we got to the end of the season, it was so great to see how our team came together.”

The team went on a retreat together and did a training camp together during Winter Break, which helped deepen relationships between teammates, Turner said.

Making the transition to competing made it harder to feel comfortable for the first few meets, said Turner.

“It’s hard to cheer for people. You don’t know what their events are, you don’t know what their best times are, you don’t know what their goals are,” said Turner.

But the swimmers quickly got into a rhythm as they learned how to be a team.

“Them getting to know each other better and seeing their strengths and their weaknesses, they really got to cheer for each other and support each other in a much different way,” Turner said.

Grace Ferguson and Bethany Christensen are the only seniors on the team, and they took the roles of “team moms” and helped bring the team together, said Turner.

“They really took on this role of support, without being like ‘team captains’,” said Turner. “They were just there to encourage, and support and carry them along the way, and I think it ended up being a really cool thing for our freshmen to see that.”

Having Ferguson and Christensen on the team also helped the newer swimmers adapt to college swimming — at GFU.

“They just had that little bit of seniority,” said Turner, “you know, that little bit of extra knowledge of, like, ‘well, this is what being an athlete at George Fox is like. You may know what being an athlete is like, but here at George Fox, this is what we want our priorities to be’.”

Turner is excited to see how the competition changes next year and what new swimmers will bring to the team culture.

“You never really know what you’re going to get or how that’s going to affect the team,” said Turner, “and next year will be really weird, because this has been the only team.”

Turner hopes the team will keep growing every year, bringing new swimmers and new times.

“There was so much more hard work and so much more dedication that we asked of them than I think they ever expected would be asked of them,” said Turner. “It was so cool as a coach to see them step up and see them respond to that so well. They were an amazing group this year.”