By Ben Hercik
As sports seasons go on, they have their ups and their downs. That statement has rung very true for the Cleveland State University swimming and diving teams this season. They have had the highs of the men winning the Magnus Cup and the women placing third, as well as the men winning two meets this season. They have also had the lows of the women’s team not winning a single meet and the men posting a 3-5 record on the season. However, first-year head coach Hannah Burandt doesn’t see the year as a series of highs and lows, rather working to be the best swimmers that they can be.
Burandt, a Parma native, returned to the Northeast Ohio area after being an assistant coach at various colleges, including at Georgetown University and the University of Houston, where she spent the past four years. While she knew that she wanted to be a head coach, Burandt was looking for the right situation, and that arose here at Cleveland State.
“I thought that once I started leaving, I wouldn’t be coming back,” Burandt said. “The more I started to learn about the position, the climate of the program, where it had been and also knowing the potential of what I could do, it felt right. I was ready to be a head coach, but I wasn’t going to move just for a job. It had to be the right job, and this was that job.”
After the Magnus Cup, both teams struggled to get back in the win column. Both would fall to Miami University and the University of Illinois-Chicago, but the men’s team would bounce back getting a win over UIC on Jan. 11 during a back-to-back dual meet. But the team couldn’t keep the momentum going. They fell to Michigan State University and Oakland University before getting a win over Kenyon College. The women’s team struggled even more as they were unable to record a single win on the season.
Despite the losses, Burandt isn’t looking at them as defeats, but rather working on their goal of establishing their team culture.
“Swimming is a very different type of sport,” Burandt said. “The point total at the end of a meet doesn’t tell the full story. Our number one goal for this year is to win our team culture. It’s about how we are approaching a meet and how we are working together as a team. Coming out of our meets with Michigan State and Oakland, it felt like we won.”
Even though the victories have been few and far between, both teams have shown that they can still swim with the best of them. Three members of the men’s team have earned either the Horizon League Swimmer or Diver of the Week. Sophomore Jack Krusinski has earned the honor three times this season, while junior teammates Dominik Niedzialek and diver Matt Akers both have two to their name for the season.
While on the women’s side there haven’t been any weekly awards, there have been a lot of positive takeaways. Junior Lexie Kostelnik has shaved over nine seconds off of her personal best time in the 1000-yard freestyle, while junior Suel van der Merwe and freshman Emma Kerro broke multiple school records. Merwe now owns the 200-yard backstroke, and Kerro has the 3-meter high dive record with a score of 309.40. While this is great, focus for Burandt or the athletes.
“It’s a cool thing to be recognized by the conference, but it’s not something that we are focused on,” Burandt said. “It’s an afterthought, and if we don’t get it from an outside entity, then we’ll celebrate it ourselves.”
Next up for the Vikings is the Horizon League Championship meet. Despite the tough regular season, Burandt says the team is looking to continue to work on winning the culture and focus on swimming and diving the best that they can.
“We want to go in as a family and enjoy the celebration of the hard work that we’ve done all season,” Burandt said. “A lot of the athletes will be disappointed if they don’t get a personal best time, and that is the norm with our sport.”