The Gustavus men’s swimming and diving team is poised to challenge for the 2011 MIAC title after finishing runner-up by just eight points last season. The Gusties will attempt to claim their first MIAC Championship since 2008 after several near misses in recent years. The 2011 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships will be held at the Aquatic Center on the campus of the University of Minnesota on Feb 17-19.
“I’m really excited about the men’s team,” said Head Coach Jon Carlson. “This is one of the few years that we have gone into the conference meet and not a lot of people are expecting much from us. The way things have been going I have a feeling that we are going to surprise a lot of people.”
The Gusties bring back All-Conference performers Whitaker Davis, John Rice, Paul Kirihara, Billy Schultze, Matt Van Fossen, Ben Stewart, and Sam DeFranco from last year’s squad. Senior Whitaker Davis and junior Billy Schultze are the top Gustavus returners. Davis is the returning champion in the 500 freestyle, and is currently ranked in the top-four in the MIAC in four freestyle races. He ranks first in the 1000 (9:33.13), second in the 1650 (16:23.47), third in the 500 (4:38.91), and fourth in the 200 (1:43.78).
Schultze will look to defend his titles in the 100 and 200 breaststroke races. He ranks second in both the 100 (59.61) and 200 breaststroke (2:09.53) entering the conference meet.
Senior Paul Kirihara will look to score points in the 100 and 200 backstroke after finishing third in both events last season. He enters ranked fourth in the 100 (53.49) and fifth in the 200 (1:58.94).
Seniors John Rice and Sam DeFranco, and junior Wes Jones will add depth in the freestyle races. Rice ranks fourth in both the 1650 (17:07.42) and 1000 (10:16.55). DeFranco ranks fourth in the 50 (21.68), while Jones ranks fifth in the 1000 (10:19.49).
Junior Matt Van Fossen is the top Gustavus butterfly swimmer, ranking fourth in the 100 (52.57) and 12th in the 200 (2:06.05). Other swimmers looking to get into the mix include senior Craig Nordquist, and junior Zach Nachtsheim. Gustavus’ top diver entering the meet is freshman Sam Hanson.
The Gusties are currently ranked second in the 200-medley and 400-medley relays. Kirihara, Schultze, Van Fossen, and DeFranco have a time of 1:36.29 in the 200-medley, while Kirihara, Schultze, Van Fossen, and Davis enter with a top time of 3:34.04 in the 400-medley.
The race for a conference title is shaping up to be the closest it has been in recent years. “St. Olaf has the advantage over everybody, but between St. Thomas, Saint John’s, Carleton, and Gustavus there is not a lot of separation and it is anybody’s meet,” said Carlson. “This could be one of the closest conference meets as far as teams one through five go, that I’ve seen since I have started coaching.”