Lone Star State Of Mind: Friday Finals

Posted on March 20th, 2015 by

Seniors Jenny Strom, Katie Olson, and Danielle Klunk were honored prior to Friday night's finals.

4:41 p.m. – Good evening everyone! Back at the blog inside the media room at Conroe. I rode to the pool with coach Lindstrom, coach Weyandt, Jenny Strom, and Danille Klunk. Since Jenny is the only one swimmer tonight, the remainder of the group will come later with coach Carlson. Since the team has spent so much time in Conroe the past few days, Carlson wanted to give them a longer break from the deck scene.

Before we left the team held its traditional meeting. Coach Carlson reiterated how proud he was of the 800-free relay’s performance and how excited he is to watch Jenny Strom swim. Because six of the seven swimmers will not compete this evening, Carlson wants them to start visualizing about tomorrow’s morning session and what needs to be done.

Since there isn’t much to cover tonight, I thought I’d go off on another tangent to keep everyone entertained. With the extra time between sessions this afternoon, both coach Carlson and I decided to take advantage of the weather and go for a run. He and I took different routes and were able to take in different sights of the Shenandoah/The Woodlands area. Like I mentioned in my first blog, Shenandoah is a small town surrounded by much larger cities. East of the city is the undeveloped Carter’s Slough – basically a big swamp. To the north in College Park, and to the west on through to the south is The Woodlands.

Promotional signage line the streets leading to the Conroe Natatorium.

Promotional signage line the streets leading to the Conroe Natatorium.

I’ve been seeing signs and directions to an outdoor amphitheater called the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in our travels back-and-forth, so I tried to make my way there. Easier said than done on foot. This area is the definition of suburban development, yet it has a long way to go on the sidewalk front.  All I’ll say is that it’s all that suitable for joggers and I received some strange looks as I meandered my away through parking lots and boulevards. After getting lost a couple times, I gave up my search and trekked back to the hotel. Coach Carlson and I later drove past the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and were quite impressed by the venue.

One observation I’ve made since being here is that Shenandoah went all out to host the NCAA Championships. From the giant tent – which cost roughly $200,000 all accounts – that hosted the banquet on Tuesday night to the amount of security at Conroe, this city has been a terrific host. Signs promoting the NCAA Championships line all the streets leading up to the natatorium and the community has banded together to put on a great show. One example of this can be seen in the hospitality room at pool where three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are provided to coaches, administrators, media, volunteers, and other personnel. The meals come courtesy of restaurants within the city. Another example of this is in the number of Shenandoah police who have been providing security. The coaches were all given the phone number of the Shenandoah Police Department prior to the meet and were told to call them if they have any issues during their stay. Haha! Talk about southern hospitality!!

Jenny Strom is suited up and is warming up across the pool.  There will be a senior tribute at some point prior to the meet and then we will get things going.  The rest of the swimmers won’t get in the pool tonight.  Instead, they will serve as Jenny’s personal cheer squad.

5:43 p.m. – We are roughly 15 minutes away from getting underway here at Conroe.  Jenny has finished her warmup and the rest of the team has arrived ready to cheer her on.

Currently on the big screen is the senior slide show.  I took pictures of Katie, Dani, and Jenny’s mugs so check out the flickr gallery for those.

6:12 p.m. – I am back in the media room after three pretty sweet events.  The first is the senior tribute, a staple of the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships.  Every participating senior is huddled into one of the four locker rooms and then each senior’s name and school is read by the public address announcer.  Danielle Klunk, Katie Olson, and Jenny Strom were greeted and hugged by all three coaches, and were each given a rose by coach Carlson.  It’s a small but touching tribute to a group of well-deserving student-athletes.

Following the senior tribute came what will be one of my favorite memories of the week.  Because of NCAA Division III’s partnership with the Special Olympics, tonight’s first race was actually swam by Special Olympics athletes.  With one side of the pool lined with seniors, the fans in the bleachers on their feet, and the rest athletes, coaches, and officials going crazy on the deck, four Special Olympians kicked off the night with a 25-yard race.  It might be the loudest this building gets all night!  What a start to the evening!!

Then, to cap it off, a different Special Olympian sang the National Anthem!  I have to give the NCAA props on this one – nicely done.

We are on the finals of the 100 backstroke right now.  Jenny will be up shortly.

Senior Tribute Photo Gallery

7:05 p.m. – Jenny Strom just capped Friday with a fourth place finish in on the consolation final.  She places 12th overall and earns All-America Honorable Mention honors.

Jenny Strom gives Jon Carlson a high five after her swim in the 100 breaststroke.

Jenny Strom gives Jon Carlson a high five after her swim in the 100 breaststroke.

7:20 p.m. – Jenny is going through her cool down and the rest of the team is waiting to head out.  We are going to take advantage of the early night and have a sit down dinner as a group – our first this week.  Tomorrow will be a huge day for Gustavus and coach Carlson wants a mental reset heading into the final day.

We will have to wait for diving and the 800-free relay to play out to see where Gustavus ranks after three complete days.  The coaching staff expects the Gusties to be ranked right around 15.

I will conclude tonight’s blog when we get back from dinner.  I’ve made a video of Jenny’s swim that will included in my formal recap.

9:35 p.m. – We are back at the hotel after tonight’s team meal.  I have posted my formal recap from tonight, which includes video of Jenny’s 100 breaststroke.

The girls were relaxed and fun to be around at dinner.  Gusties are fun to be out with because we are always complimented on how courteous they are to everyone they meet.

Back to tonight’s session.  It was great to see Dani, Katie, and Jenny honored as part of the senior sendoff.  The smiling has yet to stop, even when things haven’t gone according to plan.  That’s a key trait of this group.  What stands out to me most was the support the six non-competing Gusties displayed during Jenny’s race.  All six stood poolside and cheered on their teammate with great energy and enthusiasm.  I found myself watching them cheer instead of paying attention to the race on a couple occasions.  The love they have for one another has been glaring all season long and that was seen once again tonight in Texas.

To put it bluntly, tomorrow is a huge day for Gustavus.  It has been this team’s goal to finish inside the top 10 in the nation since the beginning of the year.  Below are a pair of quotes from Jon Carlson that I used in my preview leading up to the NCAA Championships.

“Gustavus has established itself on the national level the past several years, and Katie and Jenny have been a big part of that,” Carlson said. “This group wants to go out and prove that what has been seen from Gustavus lately is not just a superficial bubble that bursts after a couple years. We want to be known as one of the best programs in the nation and these seven swimmers are hungry to establish itself as such.”
“We go all out to win our conference championship whereas many other top programs from across the nation do not,” he continued. “It’s an honor to make it this far, but the goal is to once again crack the top 10. That was our goal at the beginning of the year and that’s what this group has its sights set on.”

If anything, tomorrow is a chance for seniors Katie Olson and Jenny Strom to finish out their career on their own terms.  Both bleed Black and Gold and will definitely have something to say about where this team finishes.

For this SID, tomorrow is my final opportunity to spend time with the team and coaches.  It’s been a fun ride thus far and I’m anxious to see how the story will end.

Good night from Shenandoah and thanks, once again, for all the support!

To give fans of behind the scenes look at this year’s NCAA Championships, Sports Information Director Ethan Armstrong will be with the Gustavus swimmers in Shenandoah. Over the course of the four-day meet, Armstrong will be blogging, posting pictures and videos, and providing day-by-day recaps of all the action. His blog posts will be entitled “Lone Star State Of Mind” and will be updated on the Gustavus athletics website throughout the meet.
 

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