8:20 a.m. - Good morning everyone! Back to the blog for the final morning of my trip to the NCAA Championships in Indianapolis. The team went for its final morning walk around Monument Circle and Head Coach Jon Carlson just hosted the final morning meeting of this trip. Coach Carlson has allowed me to offer insight at all these meetings and I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team.
It is looking like it will be another beautiful day here in Indianapolis and the attitude of the girls this morning once again reflected the sunshine outside the lobby doors.
Last night I had the privilege of meeting some of the Gustie parents who made the trip – Laura Drake’s dad, Gordan, Tarin Anding’s mom, Wendy, and Dante Colucci’s dad, Dean. Here’s a little known fact I learned about Dante last night that I found interesting. Although his 6′ 6″ 200-pound frame would suggest that he was a center on his high school basketball team, Dante was actually a wrestler for a majority of his life. Apparently he was in his element last night watching the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships going on in Oklahoma City.
Of the many things I learned about swimming in talking to Laura Drake’s father, Gordan, last night, one conversation sticks in my head. Gordan reiterated how hard it is to get to this level and earn a spot in the NCAA Championships. The coaches have touched on this point periodically through the meet and I think it’s even more important to think about as we head into the final day. NCAA Division III is home to nearly 400 women’s swimming and diving teams and I’m not even going to guess how many student-athletes. Of those thousands of swimmers, 243 women and 237 men are here in Indianapolis. Seven of those individuals are Gusties. The percentage that make it here is so low and the margin for error at this meet is even smaller. It’s an honor and a testament to make it this far, so when you see a Gustie like Alissa Tinklenberg on the podium last night, it really puts how good these athletes are in perspective.
Lets get back to this morning’s meeting. This was the shortest, yet possibly the most motivating meeting of the meet. As Alex Lindstrom put it, everything has been said in the days leading up to this point so there isn’t a whole lot there is left to say. The staff commended the swimmers on their effort thus far and repeatedly talked about how proud they were of them. “Keep it simple and swim your race,” said Carlson, “Do what you do,” said Lindstrom, “Appreciate what you’ve accomplished,” said Weyandt. I’m paraphrasing the above but the sense I got from the coaches is that this day will come down to how bad the athletes want it.
9:45 a.m. - I am back at the pool once again blogging from the media room poolside. Tom Schutt just made the announcement to clear the competition pool.
This is a big morning for the Gustavus swimming and diving team. Katie Olson will kick things off in the third heat of the 100 freestyle, Dante Colucci will then go in the second heat of the 200 backstroke, Alissa Tinklenberg will follow shortly after in the sixth heat of the 200 backstroke, and Jenny Strom then competes in the second heat of the 200 breaststroke. The 400-free relay will close out the morning in the third heat of the race.
The swimmers are going through their warmup routine – a routine I should mention that would leave me on the deck dying of exhaustion. It will be interesting to see which of our swimmers changes suits today. Strom did last night and swam her best race of the meet. I have a feeling Tinklenberg will be doing the same.
Now that I’ve mentioned Jenny Strom I think it’s important to restate how great her swim last night was. Katie Olson already claimed the “beast mode” race of the meet, but Jenny was a freak last night. Like Carlson said in the recap, she has the ability to bring her best at the best possible time. Although she was disappointed in her prelim swim and was probably a little pissed off by the fact that a St. Thomas girl broke her MIAC record in the heat prior, the junior came back with a whole new attitude in the evening. Jenny Strom was a girl on a mission and last night she swam angry. I expect her to do the exact same thing today.
The men’s 100 free has begun and we are underway here in Indianapolis. I’m out to take some pictures and will be reporting back periodically. Good luck Gusties! Swim hard, swim fast.
10:26 a.m. - Boom! Katie Olson continues to impress me and just set an unbelievable tone for the day with her swim in the 100 freestyle. Olson touched the wall in a record-breaking 51.19, finishing second in her heat and ninth overall.
I took pictures of Olson’s race from behind the blocks. When she got out of the pool, her facial expression said it all. Katie is so unassuming but it was clear she was proud of her swim. I walked over to Alex and Luke and watched the remaining heats of the race next to them. The heartbreaking thing about swimming is that even though you might swim the best race of your career in one heat, a performance in another heat can knock you out of All-America contention. Olson was sitting in fifth heading into the final heat of the event, which meant three women could swim better than her and she would still make the finals. As fate would have it, four women edged her time. That takes nothing away from what Katie accomplished and the team was pumped up because of her performance.
11:00 a.m. - Alissa Tinklenberg just swam in the 200 backstroke and earned a place in tonight’s finals with a fifth place finish. In talking to the coaches after, Alissa swam a smart race, was pleased with how it went, and is in great position heading into tonight. From my rookie observation, Tink was consistent all the way through and had a good feel for where she was at. It looked as if she kicked it in a tiny bit over the final 25 yards but saved some of her energy over the last 10. I’m probably wrong about all the above and will note that later if I am.
Dante Colucci swam before Tink and finished 33rd overall in the 200 backstroke. Colucci is now done for the weekend.
11:20 a.m. - For the second time this morning, a Gustavus swimmer has been knocked out of All-America contention following the final heat of the race. Jennifer Strom swam a great race and was sitting in sixth heading into the 200 breaststroke’s final heat. Three swimmers bested her time in that heat and she will now head into the consolation finals after a ninth place finish overall.
Gustavus’s finval event of the morning is the 400-free relay, which will take place in about 15 minutes.
11:56 a.m. - Not the best outing by the 400-freestyle relay, but the group persevered and will compete in the finals tonight! Katie Olson, Tarin Anding, Danielle Klunk, and Alissa Tinklenberg have earned a place on the All-America team with their performance and will head into tonight’s session ranked sixth.
A gut-wrenching, and at times heartbreaking, morning is now complete. I just talked to coach Weyandt about his thoughts on this morning’s races. He said that it was probably Gustavus’s best day four start the women’s team has ever had. All the swimmers are tired but they found a way to rise to the occasion and put together some inspiring swims.
The swimmers are cooling down and I am off with Coach Carlson back to the hotel.
12:25 p.m. - Coach Carlson and I are back at the hotel. The swimmers will go their separate ways for lunch and then return to their rooms for rest. Here are a few notes from this morning.
– The difference between eighth and ninth place, All-America and Honorable Mention All-America, comes down to the slightest of details. This morning’s session saw two Gusties finish outside the top eight by less time than it takes for you to clap your hands together. The morning also saw a Gustavus relay team earn a spot in the top eight by the exact same margin. An extra kick, a slight slip on the block, a tiny miscue on a turn can be the difference.
– Gustavus had another great showing in the fan department. Families, friends, and students showed great support and were just as tuned into the scoreboard as the coaches and athletes were. I had a chance to meet Alissa Tinklenberg’s grandparents briefly in the hall as I left the pool. Both had big smiles on their faces because of their granddaughter’s swim and I’m happy they made the trip.
– It is fun to watch races next to Gustavus’s coaches. Coach Lindstrom and coach Weyandt stand on the side of the pool roughly 23 yards away from the start with a stop watch in one hand and heat sheets and a pen in the other. I would take pictures from behind the blocks, then stand by them once them once the race was over to watch the remaining heats. It was fascinating to listen to them break down what needs to happen in every race in order for their swimmers to make it into the top eight. Starts and turns are evaluated, splits are calculated, and top marks are noted all inside a three minute time-span. They have the whole process down to such a science that feedback can be given to the athlete once he/she makes it back to the group.
I am still waiting for the results from this morning so expect a formal recap shortly after those come in. Follow the link below to this morning’s photo gallery.