By Quan Tran
This Friday and Saturday, Grinnell will host its Pioneer Classic for the eighth time. First held in 2011, the Pioneer Classic is an annual swimming and diving invitational started after the team moved into the new natatorium.
“With the new natatorium, we could host large meets with greater ease. Invitationals hosted by the Grinnell Swimming and Diving team are always exciting due to the level of competition and festive atmosphere,” Hammond wrote in an email to The S&B.
To the Pioneers, the Classic — a two-day event with three different sections — has always been viewed as the biggest meet of the Fall semester, serving as a warm-up tournament for February’s Midwest Conference (MWC) Championship. For team captains Haley O’Neill ’18 and Maria Venneri ’18, this year’s version is even more special.
“I’m kind of excited. I’ve been doing this for three years. I always love swimming and competing. This is one of the chances for us to swim against more people from different backgrounds,” Venneri said.
“As a senior and captain, this is a sentimental year of firsts and lasts; it’s my first time being a captain … but it is also my last time competing in this meet. … It is really neat to be a part of all these different experiences and humbling to get to be a part of such a welcoming community,” O’Neill wrote in an email to The S&B.
For Grinnell, the Classic is a chance to get to know their competition and reevaluate themselves. It also means using their home-pool advantage in Russell K. Osgood pool, where next year’s MWC Championship will also be held.
“This year Gustavus Adolphus will be replacing another team’s attendance. This will raise the level of competition significantly. We are swimming and diving very well and expect to only be more competitive going up against great competition, [especially when it’s] in our own pool with our supportive fans,” Hammond wrote.
And for Grinnell student-athletes, the event plays an even bigger, emotional role.
“[The] Classic is an opportunity for us all to demonstrate how much we really value each other. For me, it is so much bigger than defending a team title or winning. [The] Classic [also] gives me the opportunity to show up for this team that has never failed to show up for me.”