Minneapolis – “This one’s for Grace,” said head women’s swimming and diving coach Jon Carlson after his team claimed the 2013 MIAC Championship on Saturday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. With 255 points on Saturday night, the Gusties stayed the course and won the league title with a three-day total of 743 points. The Gusties dedicated their performance to teammate Grace Goblirsch (So., River Falls, Wis.) who was diagnosed with leukemia in December. “This year’s championship had an emotional charge to it like none I’ve ever experienced before. ‘Race For Grace’ was said every time we put our hands together as a team. Her battle brought perspective to what we were doing and what we were trying to accomplish – she was always in our thoughts.”
Gustavus has now won a program-best four straight conference championships. Not since St. Olaf won 11 consecutive league titles from 1987-1997 had a school won more than two in a row before the Gusties three-peated with the win last season. With four in a row, the Three Crowns has won six of the last seven and eight of the last 12 MIAC Championships.
“Winning the MIAC Championship is never easy and you have to swim like a champion from start to finish if you want to have a chance,” said Carlson. “Up and down the roster, every performance was outstanding and the effort level was as high as a coach could ever ask for.”
To go along with the emotional team victory, Gustavus junior Aliss Tinklenberg (Willmar, Minn.) was named the 2013 MIAC Women’s Swimmer-of-the-Year following the competion. On the final day of the championships, Tinklenberg’s dominance continued. The junior won the 200 backstroke with an NCAA A cut time of time of 1:59.92, breaking the MIAC record set by none other than herself just a year ago. Over the three day meet, “Tink” won all three of the individual events she swam in – taking the 400 IM in 4:30.70 and the 100 backstroke in 56.41 on Friday night. She also contributed to three first-place relays, and another second-place relay effort.
“Alissa was absolutely amazing all weekend,” said Carlson. “From her first swim in the 200-free relay to having the fastest relay split on the 400-free relay on the last day, Alissa brought her best all weekend. She swam the 400 IM, which isn’t one of her strongest events, but she did it willingly to help the team win.”
“A fierce competitor who loves to be challenged, Alissa is very deserving of the honor of MIAC Women’s Swimmer-of-the-Year. She constantly puts the team first and is a teammate of the finest caliber,” he added.
Tinklenberg is the first Gustavus athlete to be named the MIAC Swimmer-of-the-Year since Carrie Gundersen was bestowed the honor as a junior in 2009. The Willmar, Minn. product successfully defended her 2012 titles in the 100 and 200 backstroke, becoming a now six-time individual event champion in her three-year tenure.”
Also making her mark on the final day of competition was sophomore Jennifer Strom (So., Rochester, Minn.). Strom won the 200 breaststroke in record-breaking fashion, touching the wall in 2:19.65 to best the previous record of 2:21.32 held by St. Olaf’s Maggie Boling set last season.
“All the credit goes to her,” said Carlson about his second year swimmer Jennifer Strom. “She’s one of the hardest workers and most dedictate as. Jennifer made herself better through perseverance and a passion to improve.”
McKenna Jones (So., Faribault, Minn.) was Gustavus’s final All-Conference performer of the last day, taking second in the 1,650 free with a time of 17:49.74.
In the final women’s race of the meet, Katie Olson (So., North Oaks, Minn.), Sarah Hund (Sr., Willmar, Minn.), Strom, and Tinklenberg teamed up to close the meet with a victory in the 400-free relay. The group swam a 3:29.72 to meet the 2012 NCAA selection cut and secure the 2013 crown.
“This group had so much confidence in each other all season – they had each others’ back from start to finish,” added Carlson. “If someone had a swim that didn’t go the way they wanted, the team was there to pick that person up and offer support.”
The victory and meet itself was made even more significant because of the displays of support Grace throughout the weekend. “Race for Grace” chants could be heard constantly and the entire league banned together to create a Harlem Shake video in honor of their teammate and competitor. Several of the teams wore “Race for Grace” t-shirts throughout the weekend, and numerous swimmers sported temporary tattoos to show their support as well.
Carlson, who is featured at the start of the video, stated, “It was awesome to see the whole MIAC jump on board and do the Harlem Shake for Grace. The support we’ve received from other conference teams has been overwhelming. It makes me thankful to be in a league where the teams are so congenial and supportive of one another.”
Following each race, all eight finalists were honored with a podium awards ceremony during Thursday night’s session, and the top three finishers in each event received MIAC All-Conference honors and medals for their achievement. Thursday’s updated team scores and All-Conference honorees in each event are listed below, and complete results from the session are available online here. The meet ended with an awards ceremony to honor the team champions, individual award-winners and All-MIAC Sportsmanship Team selections.
Fans can re-live the 2013 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships on the event’s home page. The page features complete coverage of all six sessions including results, recaps, photos and videos. All six sessions were also broadcast live online by Webcast America, and fans can view the video archives of each session online, and have the option to purchase a DVD.