8:31 a.m. - Good morning everyone! Back at it on the blog after what was an emotional and inspirational day of swimming. It is bright and sunny in Indianapolis and the demeanor of the swimmers this morning reflected the weather perfectly.
The team had its morning meeting at 8:10 a.m. and then it was off to the pool. These morning meetings have become one of my favorite parts of the day. I’m still and always will be a swimming nube, but it is at those meetings that I learn the most about the sport and the swimmers. All seven of them had big smiles on their faces and an extra skip in their step today. I found out not long after sitting down next to Dante Colucci that a group of Gustavus swimmers, teammates of those competing, made to road trip all night to get to Indy this morning to cheer on the Gusties. From sport-to-sport, student support on the road is a staple of Gustavus athletics.
Luke Weyandt used this news when it was his turn to speak. He told the swimmers to use the energy their teammates rolled into Indianapolis with and to feed off it this morning. “Your teammates are here and they are here to support YOU,” he said.
Coach Carlson was more than pleased with yesterday’s performances and proud of how the relays stepped up to the challenge and got momentum going. Carlson said with a smile that despite an emotional couple days, this meet is only half over. The swimmers chuckled at this and I got the sense from Laura Drake that she doesn’t want this journey to end.
Coach Lindstrom talked about the team’s transformation from the MIAC Championships to now. Gustavus went into the conference meet with one mission in mind – clean house and make a statement while doing so. The Gusties did just that in what was the best performance in the history of Gustavus women’s swimming and diving. Lindstrom said that he has seen a shift of focus within this group since then and that the seven national competitors attacked training over the last month with a different attitude – a newfound motivation. That shift, Lindstrom said, and the team’s ability to narrow its focus are remarkable. Only a select number of teams form across the country can accomplish those things.
9:03 - I am back at the IUPUI Natatorium writing in this blog from the media room. It is hot in here today and I’m glad I went with shorts. John Deadman, the event’s media coordinator, continues to be a tremendous host. Upon arriving at the pool, my typical routine goes as follows: Part ways with Carlson, go to the media room and finish any thoughts for the blog, eat breakfast in the hospitality room (it will my only meal until late in the afternoon), return to the media room to finish a blog entry, and then take in the atmosphere of warmups from where Gustavus is stationed on the bleachers.
What I am beginning to realize more and more as this meet goes on (Carlson touched on this point this morning with the team) is that the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships are as mentally draining as they are physically draining. The teams that do the little things right over the course of these four days are the ones who succeed.
This is a big individual event day with Gusties swimming in all three of the morning’s individual races. Dani Klunk will swim in heat one of the 200 butterfly, Alissa Tinklenberg will go in heat three of the 100 backstroke, Laura Drake and Tarin Anding will compete in heat two of the 100 breaststroke, and Jenny Strom will cap things off in heat five of the 100 breaststroke. Gustavus’s lone male swimmer, Dante Colucci, will also be back in the pool this morning as he will swim in heat four of the 100 backstroke. The women will cap the morning session in the 800 free relay.
There is a different focus amongst team members this morning. I’ve noticed a lot more individual preparation. I don’t think Alissa Tinklenberg has been particularly happy with her backstroke splits so far in this meet and that makes me even more excited to see what she can do this morning. Tink has had this day circled on her calendar for a year. This is why she swims and this is her day.
10:21 a.m. - I just got back to the media room after taking pictures of Dani Klunk’s 200 butterfly. Although Dani finished second in her heat, she will likely not make tonight’s finals. Coach Carlson said Dani swam a smart race and was pleased with her effort. That swim will give her a great deal of confidence moving forward.
The Gustavus students who made the trip have made their presence felt in the front row. I could hear them cheering for Dani from 50 yards away. It’s pretty cool to see a Gustavus flag being waved at the NCAA Championships.
10:44 a.m. - Alissa Tinklenberg just finished her 100 backstroke race and has earned a place in tonight’s finals! Once again, I think she was only satisfied with her performance and feels she can go much faster tonight. I took pictures of Tink’s race from behind the blocks, then joined Coach Lindstrom and Coach Weyandt to watch the remaining heats. Coaches from every team line the competition pool and take notes on the top times of each heat in order to better gauge what place his/her athlete will finish once all is said and done. When the times of the final heat were put on the scoreboard, a huge sigh of relief came over the coaches, and Alissa, who had joined the group.
Dante Colucci swam right before Tinklenberg. He didn’t have his best race and will not be swimming in tonight’s finals.
The 100 breaststroke featured three Gusties. Tarin Anding and Laura Drake swam in the same heat and were separated by one lane. The race was the last of Laura Drake’s career and she seemed to savor every moment. Yesterday I talked about pre-race rituals and the differentiating routines swimmers go through on the blocks. Laura can be put in the category of “animated.” She jumps, dances, bounces her head, and shakes out the jitters before stepping up. Every team seems to have that one individual who is always the outgoing, talkative, life-of-the-party type. For this group, that person is Laura Drake. She is the spark plug who has provided energy since arriving in Indy.
Being the social butterfly she is, Laura congratulated her friend, Emily Punyko, of St. Thomas on her race and told her she was so proud of her. Although the MIAC teams are bitter rivals for the majority of the season, they rally around each other at the NCAA Championships. Laura – I’ve learned – is friends with everyone from everywhere and it was great to see such great sportsmanship between competitors.
Drake then waited to watch Jenny Strom swim in the fifth and final heat of the 100 breaststroke. Strom finished 15th overall and earned a spot in tonight’s consolation race.
I am back in the media room waiting for the 800-free relay to begin. There are three heats for both the men and women so this segment of the morning takes a little bit longer. Congrats to all of Gustavus’s individuals on a great morning! I have over 400 pictures to go through so you can expect a photo gallery soon. Of those 400 pics, I’m hoping 50 turn out.
12:01 p.m. – I just finished up a photo gallery from this morning’s prelims. It was important to Laura Drake to get one more picture of her and her teammates together in their black and pink competition suits.
Katie Olson, Tarin Anding, and Jenny Strom just finished their cool down and are out of the pool heading to the showers. I am typing from the bleachers poolside next to Coach Lindstrom. It is during this window of time that the coaches have one last chance to discuss the session with the athletes before departing for break. Many of the swimmers are going to eat lunch with their parents. After lunch, it’s back to the routine.
Coach Carlson and I will be heading out shortly, so you can expect a formal recap of this morning’s prelims in a bit.