Diving in, Filling shoes

Last year, Eureka swim and dive dominated in the pool, ending with titles that showed their effort and talent. Their successes at state included a first-place finish in the 50-meter freestyle, first place in the 4×100 meter freestyle relay, third place in the 4×50 meter medley relay, and a 2nd place finish overall. This team showcased many swimmers and athletes, led by coach Nate Kortuem. Since then, Kortuem received a job as a physical education teacher at Wild Horse Elementary, causing him to leave Eureka and leave the Eureka swim team.

The 2021-22 swim team will now be coached by Anna Jovanom, with the help of assistant coach Mark Morrison, who also helped coach last season.

Anna Jovanom is a very experienced swimmer and coach and has her goals set high for this season.

“I started swim when I was 4 and then swam competitively all through college,” Jovanom said. “I coached at Francis Howell for 5 years where we had many state and conference championships. I also was awarded 2017 MSHAA coach of the year and the NFHS Midwest sectional coach of the year.”

Jovanom recognizes Kortuem’s success from last year, but also believes that this year can hold just as much excellence.

“Last year was a very successful year for this program. Always hard to follow that up but I’m confident in our goals that we can still make big things happen this year,” Jovanom said. “We have all skill levels, which is awesome because we can compete at every level. My goal every season is to teach and show the athletes what they are capable of and that is no different this season.”

Being on a team that sets itself apart and accomplishes amazing things isn’t something everyone can say they’ve been a part of. Having a team like that, and a team like last year, is an occurrence seen few and far between.

Teams like this have to possess certain characteristics that help them stand out from the rest.

“Leadership and attitude set teams apart,” Jovanom said. “So far we’ve had seniors really step up and lead the team, which has been awesome. We have a young team so having our seniors lead them has been awesome to watch this far. Also our energy every practice has been rejuvenating for Mark and I. Everyone is so excited to be there and wants to have an awesome season.”

Although new to the Eureka swim program, Anna Jovanom isn’t alone. Mark Morrison is the swim team’s assistant coach

Morrison is also a very experienced swimmer and coach.

“I swam through high school and in college. I coached for a while after that with various teams,” Morrison said. “This is my 2nd year with the Eureka program, I truly enjoy it. I love swimming and consider it a real privilege to be a small part of the Eureka program.”

Last year the team excelled not only on skill, but on a bond that they shared in and out of the pool. Having this unbreakable bond allowed trust and passion to grow between the swimmers.

Morrison said that the team was set apart last year due to an abundant level of determination and focus.

“A combo of great upperclassmen, mixed in with an awesome freshman/sophomore class. They were also a determined team, I believe they knew they could do something special, and worked all year to make that happen. It was a strange year obviously with COVID but they never lost focus,” Morrison said. “When I think of that team I think of determination and focus.”

Although last year’s triumphs helped showcase an array of swimmers, this year is a new year. The 2021-22 team has to be able to carry on the legacy of last year, while also not hyper-fixating on the past.

When asked what needs to happen this year in order to carry on last year’s success, Morrison explained how the past is in the past and the team should focus on the present and future.

“This is a new year, with new kids on the team. They can absolutely do something special again. You can really see the leadership with this team already. They are building a reputation as a great program not only in the area but in the state. They shouldn’t focus on last year, it’s over now. They need to focus on what this team is capable of doing. If they continue to work hard, the results will be there in the end,” Morrison said.

Last year there were a lot of important senior swimmers. This year there are a lot of new kids on the team. This leaves the opportunity for new athletes to step up and fill the leadership role.

“I believe the returning girls will be where they need to be, they have proven themselves and we know what they are capable of. I’m excited to see what the new swimmers and freshmen can do. From what I have seen in practice, there is a lot of talent there,” Morrison said.

A few seniors have stepped up to claim their leadership role, including Olivia Dolan.

“We need good leadership as well, which I mentioned you can already see. Olivia Dolan has embraced that role as a senior. She has stepped up and put together team activities, and is doing a good job making everyone feel welcome. Swimming can be seen as an individual sport, but the more you can come together as a team, the more success you will have,” Morrison said.

Like Mark mentioned, Dolan has stepped up and claimed her role as a senior leader. Dolan was also part of the victorious team last year, including being part of the winning 4×100 meter freestyle relay, making her one to watch this season. Athletic skill is one thing, but leadership is another, and athletes who possess both, like Dolan, are the ones who truly stand out.

When asked what led her team to be successful last year, Dolan said it most contributed to the determination and positive environment.

“Last year we had a lot of girls that were all very dedicated to winning. We all had a goal and we were all very determined to reach it,” Dolan said. “ It was a positive environment and everyone was pushing everyone to be their best. I definitely think the positive environment and everybody helping everyone and everyone being together especially during those hard sets was really helpful.”

Having a shift in the coaching staff can have a big impact on the individual swimmers and how their practices are run.

“Anna is not the same as Nate; they run practices very differently,” Dolan said. “Anna really wants everyone to be in practice together, she wants everyone to be doing the same thing, whereas last year Nate kind of separated us. That caused a bit of separation among the team because we were training with the same people every day but you didn’t really know the others. But this year we all know each other.”

The Eureka swim team also has a lot of pressure on them this year to be just as good as they were last year. With the loss of multiple crucial swimmers, it may be difficult to live up to last year’s standards and success.

“We don’t have as many girls as we did last year and obviously we lost a couple of our key swimmers like Emma Harris, Sydney Durbin, and Kenzie Swope,” Dolan said. “So I think that definitely took a hit to our state team and I don’t know if we’ll do as good this year, which I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on us to be as good because of how good we did last year.”

With Anna Jovanom stepping up to carry on Eureka’s success in the pool and push each athlete to reach their full potential, the Eureka women’s swim team will be something to keep an eye on this winter.