After swimming hundreds of thousands of yards and competing against dozens of teams over the course of the last five months, all of our hard work comes down to this weekend’s MIAC Championship meet. Both the men’s and women’s teams have been anxious for this weekend for quite some time, and both teams have high hopes entering the weekend.
After an hour-long bus ride to reach our hotel, the swimmers dropped their bags in their rooms and went out to eat. For the entire weekend we are staying in the Radisson, which is just across from the pool where we will swim. Typically, a good number of the teams stay here, and this year is no different. We ran into a bunch of St. John’s swimmers and walked over to Noodles & Company with them for a healthy dinner. It is a well-known fact that if there is a swim meet near a Noodles restaurant that business will be booming, as it is the most popular place for swimmers to eat.
After a delicious meal, we walked back to the hotel and ran into the St. John’s coach in the hotel lobby. He was carrying a megaphone, and joked with us that his team “needed something to be as loud as you guys.” Gustavus always has a good showing of non-roster swimmers and alumni at the meet to cheer on the team, so it’s always nice to know that other teams are aware of our vast cheering section.
We returned to our rooms, then we all headed to one room so we could have a team meeting led by Jon. While we waited for the rest of the team to arrive, the swimmers all watched the snowboarding half-pipe event at the Winter Olympics. Just as Shaun White was set to start his first run, Jon turned off the TV to start the meeting and the entire team started yelling at him to turn it back on. Jon let us watch White before starting the meeting, and everyone enjoyed watching him dominate the competition. Everyone then went to bed and got ready for our own competition.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are more excited for this year’s conference meet than in the past because this year’s meet looks to be closer than usual. On the men’s side, the Gusties will be vying for first place with St. Olaf and St. Thomas. While it will likely remain a three-team race for the title, other teams are sure to score lots of points. The women’s team is anxious for its chance to get payback for its second place finish at last year’s conference meet to Carleton, and several other teams will be in the running as well.
Today, we swam in the first prelims session, with lots of Gusties posting best times in their races. With many parents, alumni, and non-roster swimmers cheering in the stands, Gustavus put itself in good position heading into the night session. Although the first day of the conference meet always proves to be the least-attended—and in turn, the least energetic—we were able to create an electric atmosphere that aided in many great swims.
The session started off with the women’s 500 freestyle, which saw one of the most impressive swims of the morning. Carrie Gundersen got her automatic qualifying time for the NCAA Championships, and in the process broke her own MIAC record and bested Maggie Alexander’s conference meet record by almost three seconds. Nearly as impressive was the completion of Jonna Berry’s transformation to distance swimmer. Jonna dropped 14 seconds from her seed time and stayed at third-seeded Maggie Alexander’s hip for the entire race to finish in seventh place. Melissa Aune (10th place) and Anna Eames (12th) also had good swims and will look to improve their places tonight.
The Gustie men showed their dominance in the distance events as Skylar Davis, brother Whitaker Davis, and John Rice took the top three places in the morning prelims in the 500 Free. Skylar and Whitaker both got their NCAA B cuts. Ross Elenkiwich and Ben Stewart had great swims with Wes Jones finishing just behind them to set up a strong consolation heat for the Gusties.
The individual medley (IM) was a very good event for the women, with Carley Mosher finishing in second place and Marnie Luke and Stephanie Korba placing seventh and eighth, respectively. Plenty of room remains for each to move up in the finals session later this afternoon. Also, Maggie Hansvick added a solid effort in her race, holding off a late surge by an opponent to drop six seconds in her swim.
After the women were finished, the time came for me to get ready for my first race of the weekend, the 200 IM. As luck would have it, my teammate Billy Schultze and I were placed in the lanes surrounding the most talented swimmer in the entire conference, St. Olaf’s Chris Bateman. I spent my entire pre-race routine telling myself to ignore his lane during my race because he would be way out in front and I didn’t want his speed to lure me into taking the race out too fast.
It didn’t take me long after diving into the water to figure out that my stroke felt off. I am much more of a distance IM’er, so when I was unable to get my stroke turnover as fast as it should be, I began to doubt myself a little. My backstroke and breastroke got me back into the race, however, and by the time I did my transition to freestyle I felt more in control.
I saw out of the corner of my eye that I was gaining on the Tommie swimmer in the lane next to me, and I gave all of my effort to try and catch up to him. I dug deep and out-touched him by 5/100 of a second. While I was excited about catching the other swimmer, I will have to improve my technique for tonight’s race to get the kind of time that I know that I’m capable of. We are very happy with getting Billy and Matt Van Fossen back for the finals heat (nearly an eight-second drop for Matt), and David Kramer and I will be sure to give it everything we have to score as many points as possible in the consolation heat.
The women had a spectacular showing in the 50 freestyle with both Sarah Hund and Dajana Vidovic finishing in the top four and getting their NCAA B cut times. Serena Elthon finished sixth, with all three of those women nearly cutting an unheard-of full second in the 50 free. With such a short sprint event, it is very difficult to drop time, much less that large of a drop.
The 50 free for the men was exciting to watch. Sam Defranco dropped half a second to finish in fifth, while Lance Switzer and Zach Nachtsheim each cut time to finish strong and set up an exciting consolation heat tonight. In one of the more memorable moments of the morning, Lance gave a huge smile and pointed to his teammates at the far side of the pool to acknowledge their cheering and support after he finished his 50.
The Gustie divers also put themselves in good position with Brittani Matzke finishing the prelims in first place on the three-meter board, and teammates Alecia Alvarado and Darcy Reller capturing ninth and eleventh place, respectively. On the men’s side, Bill Klein continued a great season with a seventh place showing on the one-meter board, while Ryan Ortlip finished in 13th place.
After the session ended, the team split up to grab lunch. I returned to the hotel and found that my roommates John Rice and Lance Switzer were watching the online broadcast of the morning prelims. In order to access the results and live video feeds for each session, feel free to visit http://www.miac-online.org/sports/2010/1/12/MSWIM_0112101715.aspx?id=5590. As Division III athletes, we are unaccustomed to having a resource such as this at our fingertips in the middle of a meet, so many of the swimmers tried to watch their own swims during the break between prelims and finals.
Shortly afterwards, Mary Jo Behr and Melissa Aune stopped in our room to talk for a bit, followed by senior swimmers Emily Allex and Luke Paquin. After discussing the morning session for awhile, we were all pleasantly surprised to see Josh Seaburg come in for a visit. Seaburg swam for Gustavus last year as a freshman, but transferred to St. John’s this school year. Despite his times being very good (he almost broke our freshman 200 IM record last year, held by one of the best swimmers in the program’s history, Matt Stewart) and his decision to switch teams, we were glad to see him, and remain good friends.
The general feeling heading into tonight’s finals is that the men and women are sitting in good positions, but as Jon always says, “you can’t win the meet in the morning.” We will all be fighting to hold our positions from the morning and trying to move up to score more points.
Craig Nordquist is a third-year swimmer for Gustavus Adolphus College, and an intern in the school’s Sports Information Office. He is blogging from the MIAC Championships to give you the inside scoop on the team. Be sure to read the daily installments of his blogs live from the meet.