The finals session last night turned out quite well for both Gustie squads, with the women pulling ahead of the pack early by scoring 208 points. That gives the women a 66-point lead over defending champion Carleton heading into the second day of competition. The Gustavus men are in a dogfight leading St. Thomas by one point. It feels good to have both the men’s and women’s teams in first place after the first day of competition.
The Gustie alumni packed the stands last night to root the team on for the first finals session of the meet, and the result was an unusually loud Thursday night at Conference. While the fans always show up in big numbers to root the team on over the course of the weekend, the numbers start to swell as the meet goes on due to the fact that the first two days of the meet lie on weekdays.
The night session began with the men’s 1 meter diving, where the top eight divers from the morning session returned to perform six dives for judges. Bill Klein represented Gustavus quite well by turning in an eighth place performance. Diving occurred right between swimming warmups and the first events of the meet, so most of the swimmers migrated over to the deck surrounding the diving well to root Bill on. It was fun to see Bill smiling on the board as his name was announced for each dive and we all cheered him on.
The meet began with the women’s 200 Freestyle Relay, and it was an amazing race. I forget every year just how energetic the atmosphere gets when it comes time for the relays at the conference meet. The women dominated the event in capturing first place with a NCAA B cut. The men had some tough competition and ended up with a fourth place finish despite finishing just under four-tenths of a second behind second place. That is the type of race that proves that every second (and tenth of a second) matters in swimming.
The meet continued with the 500 Free, which annually serves as a display of Gustie dominance in the distance events. For the women’s side, Carrie Gundersen kept her spot from prelims and won the MIAC title in the event. Jonna Berry posted another stellar swim by getting fifth place in the event and moving up two spots from the prelims. Anna Eames and Melissa Aune dueled each other in the consolation heat and finished 11th and 12th place, respectively.
On the men’s side, Skylar and Whitaker Davis put up one of the most entertaining races of the night with each swimmer matching the other stroke for stroke up until the end of the race. In the last 100 yards of the race, Whitaker came alive and out-touched his brother to finish first. Skylar’s second place finish and John Rice’s fourth place effort paced the finals heat for the men. Ross Elenkiwich won the consolation heat with a four second shave from the morning, while Ben Stewart and Wes Jones turned in great performances, securing 11th and 13 place, respectively.
In the finals heat of the women’s 200 IM, every Gustie moved up from the morning session. Carley Mosher put together a great swim to out-touch a Tommie and an Ole en route to a MIAC title in the event and a NCAA B cut. Stephanie Korba and Marnie Luke also turned in exciting swims, coming in fifth and seventh place, respectively.
In the men’s 200 IM, all eight swimmers in the finals heat finished in the same place as prelims. This meant that Billy Schultze kept his third place finish, with the sophomore almost mounting a comeback to overtake second place, and Matt Van Fossen remained in eighth place. I had a much more controlled swim this time around and finished in 12th place, just behind David Kramer’s 11th place effort.
Then in the women’s 50 Free, an exciting finals race was capped with Sarah Hund and Dajana Vidovic capturing NCAA B Cuts and finishing as close to each other as humanly possible. Vidovic’s second place finish beat out Hund’s third place swim by 1/100 of a second. Serena Elthon posted a seventh place finish in the event to keep the Gusties in good position.
Sam Defranco held his fifth place position in the 50 Free championship heat for the men with a fast swim, and Lance Switzer continued to drop time in his 10th place finish. Zach Nachtsheim finished close behind in 14th place.
The 400 Medley relays began after a short break, and again the crowd was electric. Every swimmer on the pool deck rose to their feet to cheer on their teammates, and the natatorium grew extremely noisy. The women put up an amazing time in what may go down as the closest race of the night. The Gustie women were in first place for most of the race, but St. Thomas and Carleton inched closer towards the end of the race and touched out the Gustie relay. Despite the close finish not going the way the women wanted, the Gusties still posted an extremely good time and captured their NCAA B cut.
The men amazed even themselves with a second place finish in which each member of the relay swam personal bests and ended the race with a second place finish behind St. Thomas. It was really cool getting to see the reaction of each swimmer as they finished and realized that they just swam lifetime bests. The best reaction came from Paul Kirihara, as he took his goggles off and did a double take when he saw his backstroke split.
After a good first day of swimming, the team went back to the hotel and grabbed sandwiches from one of the team’s rooms. Every year at Conference the team receives a couple of extra rooms for the non-roster swimmers that come to cheer the team on, and the swimmers staying in those rooms helped serve us all a very good meal. The team then went to bed for a good night’s sleep.
The prelims session earlier today went extremely well for both teams as both the men and women set up a great finals session tonight. Our morning started off with an early wake-up call and a team meeting that followed a small breakfast in the hotel. After the meeting, the team headed over to the pool for warmups.
In this part of my entry I will focus less on the finishes and more on the memorable moments of the morning session. The team cheered extremely loud this morning, which really set the tone for the morning prelims. The entire pool was filled with Gustie cheers as the team rooted for the morning’s first swim, a time trial of the 200 Freestyle Relay in which the Gustie women improved on their time from last night and moved closer to being a lock to reach the NCAA Championships.
I was able to relax more this morning after having been through a full day of swimming already. My 400 IM went well with a fifth place finish, and I was able to step it up in the second half of the race despite being extremely tired by the halfway mark. I was so tired when I finished the race that I could hardly pull myself out of the water. After sitting for a few minutes on the podium sitting right behind the starting blocks, I walked over to a trash can and proved to the rest of the team that I succeeded in coach Carlson’s wish to ‘use every last bit of energy left in your bodies.’ It should be a good race tonight, but hopefully it won’t hurt quite as badly as it did in the morning.
During the 100 Backstroke later in the morning, one of the heats was set to jump in the water when an alum in the stands yelled out to coach Carlson that Katy Lucas wasn’t in the water like she was supposed to be. Thanks to former swimmer Greg Pokorski’s heads-up observation, Jon was able to run to the officials and get them to stop the beginning of the race just in time for Katy to get into the correct lane. I guess that’s another advantage to having lots of amazing alums in attendance at the meet!
Another cool moment occurred immediately afterwards when Ally Hannemann swam in her heat of the 100 Back. The team decided to sing ‘happy birthday’ to her when she finished in order to celebrate her 20th birthday. It was fun to watch her surprise as the entire team began singing to her.
Finally, the most memorable moment of the morning—and I was interested to find out that I wasn’t alone in observing this—occurred at the end of the morning session. Immediately following the final race of the session, we started our “We Mess Around” chant that we do at meets to show other teams that we like to have fun, and our words were actually loud enough to echo throughout the entire building. That was a very real testament to how loud we can cheer, and many other swimmers agreed that it was awesome to actually hear it echo. Tonight will be a very important session that will likely tell us how our teams are sitting, so it will be fun to see how many awesome swims we can pull off tonight.
Craig Nordquist is a third-year swimmer for Gustavus Adolphus College, and an intern in the school’s Sports Information department. 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.