Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving fall vs. UW-La Crosse


Ava O’Neill swims the 100 Breaststroke during a dual meet against UW-La Crosse on October 29. (Photo courtesy of Duy Nguyen and Luther College Photo Bureau)

In their final home dual meet of the 2021-2022 season, the Luther men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams were defeated by UW-La Crosse on October 29. The men lost 213-83, and the women lost 226-74. The Norse were only able to post first-place finishes in four events between the two meets. 

On the men’s side, Nico Shrestha (‘25) placed first in the 100 Butterfly with a time of 54.70, while Weston Miner (‘25) placed first in the 50 Butterfly with a time of 24.38. Miner’s time was the fifth-quickest all time in Luther history. For the women, Anna Thomley (‘23) won the 500 freestyle race with a time of 5:42.97, and Elise Ilsley (‘25) won the three-meter diving event, performing 6 dives for a total point value of 226.72.

Luther Swimming and Diving Head Coach Aaron Zander (‘10) identified the performances of Miner, Thomley and Isley as ones that stood out during the meet. Zander said he wants his team to put their best effort in every day, and foresees more history-making performances as the season continues.

“We’re still growing together, and as a team — that’s the fun part about a team this young — we have incredible potential,” Zander said. “I’ve really been proud of the time drops, [personal records], and overall effort across our team.”

Luther had many other noteworthy performances throughout the dual meet. For the women, the team of Margaret Petellin (‘24), Erin McGrath (‘25), Ella Marti (‘25) and Nev Nelson (‘25) placed second in the women’s 200 medley relay with a time of 1:58.08, while Ava O’Neill (‘25) placed second in the women’s 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:16.17. For the men, the team of Ryan Malecha (‘25), Jack Meehan (‘23), Weston Miner (‘24), and captain Matt Benson (‘22) finished second in their respective 200 medley relay with a time of 1:42.08 and the team of Shrestha, Jake Walz (‘25), Dylan Rauser (‘25) and Benjamin Bridges (‘24) finished third in the 200 free relay with a time of 1:33.01.

Despite the Eagles winning all but four events in the dual meet, Luther did come away with 16 top-three finishes — 11 for the men and five for the women — in addition to the four individual events that the team won. Women’s swimmer Claire Hruby (‘23) was happy to see her teammates performing well, especially since some Luther swimmers were purposely put in new events to try and diversify swimming abilities. For example, Hruby (listed on the official roster as a freestyle swimmer) participated in the 50 backstroke event, and said she enjoyed being encouraged by her teammates as she was pushed out of her comfort zone.

“Whenever we’re on deck for a meet, I feel like it’s always a really [great] environment,” Hruby said. “Cheering for your teammates [and] getting to be [at the meet] is really a lot of fun. I think that is why a lot of us support each other really well, as a team.”

Bridges similarly noticed how strong the support was between both teams, and acknowledged that Coach Zander plays a large role in this. Bridges remarked how Coach Zander continually emphasizes how important connections are between members of both teams, and how this season will be an improvement from last year’s pandemic-restricted schedule in and out of the pool.

“[The swimming] is a lot more competitive [this season],” Bridges said. “We don’t have to worry about all the restrictions that were put onto us last year [and] now we can just focus on our energy during races.”

Both the Luther men’s and women’s teams will compete next in a dual meet against Grinnell College. The meet will be held at Grinnell and will start at 1 p.m. The Norse will not compete at home for the rest of the year, with their next home event being the Norse Sprint Invite on January 8, 2022.