Manchester University
Oak Leaves

February 22, 2019

Swimming 5

Senior Guerby Ruuska set a new school record in the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:12.68, beating the old record by almost 2 seconds at the HCAC Swimming and Diving Championship. After graduation he is headed to Lima, Peru, to join the Haitian National Swim Team.  

Tight-Knit Team Breaks Records

Noah Tong


For Manchester University head coach Mike Kocsis, the results of the 2019 HCAC Swimming and Diving Championships at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology were an overwhelming success.

“We were easily the smallest team at this meet by at least 10 people compared to the next smallest team, so I wasn’t even looking at how we scored as a team,” Kocsis said. “The only thing that mattered to me was how we performed on the individual level.

“Everyone had season best swims and dives, many people had lifetime best swims and dives, and we broke a total of 10 individual school records with some being broken multiple times throughout the weekend,” Kocsis continued. “I couldn’t be prouder of how the team performed.”

The men’s team concluded the weekend with a score of 141, while the women’s team finished with a score of 134. Divers Jordan Spearman and Anjel Clemente both qualified for NCAA Sectionals due to their impressive results in the men’s 3-meter and 1-meter dives, respectively. Shelby Kell broke four school records for the second straight year.

“Our program has a bright future and is heading the right direction,” Clemente said. Back in October; however, these achievements may have seemed more improbable.

“There was a lot I had to learn on the fly,” said Kocsis, reminiscently. “This is my first year as a head coach, and I joined the team in October after the season had already begun. We had a turbulent start, but it all culminated in a fantastic conference championship.”

The abrupt coaching hire led to a rocky beginning to the season for the individuals on the team. “His coaching style is very different than the previous coach’s style, and I had trouble adjusting at first,” explained senior Jamie McBride. “After I got used to the new coaching style the season went a lot smoother.”

This year the HCAC championships took place at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology from Thursday, February 14, to Saturday, February 16. The athletes were expected to be ready at the pool by 8 a.m. Preliminaries would run until around noon. Evening finals sessions did not start until 6 p.m. and lasted until 10 p.m. The weekend was what Kocsis called “challenging” for the student-athletes both physically and mentally, but Spartan swimmers and divers are no strangers to heavily regimented schedules.

“With this sport, everything matters,” said Guerby Ruuska, a senior swimmer. “The amount of sleep you get, what you consume, your mentality. In no other sport do all the little things make such a difference. It’s stressful at times but also very humbling to say you are that disciplined of a student-athlete.”

Kocsis, determined to honor the level of commitment his athletes displayed, recognized the significance of ending the season strong—especially for the seniors.

“Fifty percent of our team were seniors competing in their final swim meet,” he said. “It was important for me to send the athletes off on the highest note possible at the end of their collegiate athletic careers.

“I did my best to make this season as fantastic and memorable as possible for our graduating seniors,” Kocsis continued. “They deserved nothing less than my best for all the time, energy and training they have put into our program.”

The Spartan swimmers and divers shared a special bond that made all the extra hours worth the trouble.

“I came in late because I started senior year thinking I wasn’t going to swim anymore,” said Nathan Koch, a senior swimmer. “I thought I was burnt out. However, I ended up coming in to help the guys’ team so they would have relays for conference. I think this season was a great way to end my swimming career.”

That helpful attitude prevails throughout. “We are not just a team,” Mikayla Goetz said. “We are like a family.”

Ruuska believes the supportive and acceptive culture fostered in the swimming and diving program reveals untapped potential of every athlete. “It’s not all about how fast you go in the water or your degree of difficulty off the board,” he said. “It’s about friendships and supporting each other through everything. The good and the bad.

“Manchester swimming and diving does a great job at taking people in who don’t believe in themselves and making them monsters in the water,” he continued. “You don’t need to be division one talent. As long as you have a passion for swimming, working this hard, and hanging around goofballs all day, then you’ll fit in here.”

Kocsis plans to use the momentum gained from his first season to increase the support for the Spartans’ swimming and diving program from the entire university.

“Much like any other sport, we love our fans,” he said. “We will be having more home meets starting next year, and I would love for people to come out and support the student-athletes who work so hard at a sport they love.”