When Luther expanded its aquatic facilities in 2014, a brand-new, high-quality practice space suddenly became available for area swimmers. Two of the groups that quickly rented space there were the over-18 Decorah Masters Swim Club and the Northeastern Swim Team (NST), an all-ages group that includes members from as far away as McGregor, Iowa, and Preston, Minn. Beginning last September, the waters between these groups grew even closer as Aaron Zander ’10, Luther aquatic director and head men’s and women’s swimming and diving coach, negotiated a coaching partnership with NST.
The tighter partnership provides NST athletes with a college-level swimming experience, in part through offering the coaching skills of Luther assistant coach Linnea Lee-Brown ’21 and five Luther athletes as work-study assistant coaches. The partnership also reshaped Luther’s coaching structure, adding an additional full-time assistant coach to the staff, a welcome addition as the team has swelled in size to record numbers over the past three years.
“This partnership offers benefits to both programs,” Zander says. “For the Luther coaches, it offers greater exposure and experience working with younger swimmers up to national-level high school athletes. For NST, it offers long-term coaching stability and foundational coaching principles that are being taught at the college level, better preparing our area’s youngest swimmers.”
“To be under the direct mentorship of coach Aaron Zander ensures that our developing swimmers receive technically sound instruction and advice both in and out of the pool to help swimmers achieve their goals. Partnering with Luther helps our club establish the sustainability that we have been tirelessly working toward for years,” says Joie LaFrentz, vice president of NST.
Decorah Masters continues to have close Luther connections, with many Luther faculty, staff, and alumni among its members. Kate Elliott, Decorah Masters coach and Luther professor of art history, thinks the new Luther partnership only enhances the “lively culture of lifelong wellness both in and out of the water” that’s a hallmark of the Luther aquatic center. “One of my favorite times to coach is Monday mornings, when the Luther swimmers are all on deck and the music is blaring,” she says. “It’s good for Luther students to see adults taking care of their health, and good for the adults to see Luther swimmers working hard and to be reminded of what the Luther experience is.”