By Jamison Schroeder
As the offseason ends for the Cleveland State University men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams, there is a certain buzz about the team following the hiring of a new head coach. The new season means new preseason polls for both teams, and both have the Vikings ranked highly.
The men’s team holds steady from last years second-place finish in the Horizon League tournament, as they were picked to finish second in the conference. The women’s team was picked to be tied for third with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Both teams managed to procure at least one first-place vote in the poll, leaving a lot to prove this season. With a lot of familiar faces returning this year, there is a ton of excitement surrounding the team for the season ahead.
The newest face of the Cleveland State swim team is head coach Hannah Burandt, a previous Division I assistant coach for six years at the University of Houston, where she helped reinvigorate the swim team, helping push them from last place in the American Athletic Conference, to third place in just her first year as a part of the staff. Burandt grew up in the Cleveland area and inherits two teams looking to take the next step and bring home a conference championship. Freshman Abigail Ramey lit up as she spoke about the energy that Bruandt and the rest of the staff bring.
“Coach Bruandt is great,” Ramey said. “The entire staff has been amazing. There is positive energy, and she has a smile on her face all the time. Even when it’s hard to get up at six in the morning to swim, she is always there, ready to go and makes sure we are ready to go as well.”
Despite a new coach, there are a number of not so new swimmers for the 2019-20 season, as most of the top scorers from last year’s teams return for this year. Current senior and veteran swimmer Sam Sawyer said that the team has the correct mindset for the start of the season.
“You always have to go in with the mindset of winning,” Sawyer said. “We are all competitors out here; it’s what we do.”
The men’s team returns four of their top five scorers from the 2018-19 season, including the top point scorer from the conference meet, junior Dominik Niedzialek. Coming off an impressive first season with the team, senior Matthew Martin is also returning after finishing first in the 100-yard butterfly at last year’s conference meet.
The women’s team finished last season in fourth place at the Horizon League meet, only finishing about twenty points out of third, and hope to improve, with the goal of being that first-place finishing team. Ramey expresses optimism for the team and has high hopes for the season.
“I’m excited to go out there and show them what we’ve got,” Ramey said. “I’m very optimistic for this year’s team. We’ve got a lot of diversity in a lot of places. It should be a great season.”
From the women’s team, they are seeing an impressive return of eight of their top ten scorers, including sophomore Agnes Bahr, who is coming off quite the freshman season. Junior Lexie Kostelnik is another returnee after a season full of highlights including breaking the school record in the 1650-yard freestyle.
The Vikings dove into the beginning of the 2019-20 season with the Akron Zips Classic, where there were some good performances.
Niedzialek recorded a pair of first place finishes in both the 100 and 200-yard backstrokes. He finished the 100-yard backstroke only 0.29 seconds ahead of second, while in the 200, he won by over a second. Sophomore Jack Krusiniski recorded a second-place finish in the 200-yard individual medley, only missing out on first place by 0.42 seconds. The 400-yard medley relay team of Niedzialek, Krusinski, Martin and senior Dominic Poletta finished in second.
The women’s performance was highlighted by Kostelnik and her performance in the 1650-yard freestyle, where she finished in fifth place.
Both teams dive back into the pool in Oct. 25 when they go against Milwaukee in the first conference swim meet of the season.