CEDAR RAPIDS — Coe College is hosting the 44th annual men’s and 39th annual women’s Liberal Arts Championships this weekend.
Along with the host Kohawks, swimmers and divers from Luther, Loras and Simpson welcome out-of-state schools from Illinois (Principia and Illinois Tech), Nebraska (Saint Mary and Nebraska Wesleyan), Minnesota (Minnesota-Morris) and California (Mills).
“It’s always been a group of liberal arts colleges that either have a very small conference or no conference whatsoever,” said Coe head coach Brian Ruffles. “This (meet) will always be a home for those schools. It gives our athletes a conference meet to look forward to.”
Ruffles has led the Kohawks for seven seasons after coming to Coe 13 years ago when former coach Justin Jennings had a position available on his staff. Ruffles was looking for a place to attend grad school.
Having grown up across from Lake Erie in the Buffalo, N.Y., area, Ruffles found his calling early and still carries it with him to this day.
“By the time I got to high school, I really loved the water and decided to join the swim team,” Ruffles said. “I swam in college and it’s just been a passion of mine.”
Now, Ruffles has the opportunity to help others extend their swimming careers while pursuing their eventual profession.
“A big part of our philosophy is that with a student-athlete, student comes first,” Ruffles said. “I think living a life with the regimented schedule that swimming provides teaches you how to plan and be successful.”
One Kohawk working hard to balance that philosophy is Cedar Rapids Kennedy alum Darby Manternach.
“Swimming has taught me a lot of time-management skills,” Manternach said. “There are only so many hours in a day, so getting your homework done while having a social life, you have to make sure you are on top of everything.”
The 21-year-old junior always has been interested in medicine and “going the surgical route” when it comes to choosing a career path, but Manternach also believes swimming has influenced who she wants to be.
“I think I already was that person, but swimming solidified it,” Manternach said. “I definitely have more to-do lists now to make sure everything gets done.”
On full academic scholarship, Manternach stays in what she has come to accept as “the Coe bubble” most of the time. With college admission exams this summer and Johns Hopkins at the top of her list, Manternach is rarely found outside of her apartment or the pool.
There is one exception, though. Her mother.
“She’ll text me, ‘Do you want a Dunkin’?’” Manternach said. “Of course, I have to say ‘yes.’”