November 20, 2007

We're leaving Michigan with a pair of wins this weekend, but I have to admit, feelings are mixed. One the plus side we had some great, great racing this weekend. I liked how the guys simply got up and raced whoever was next to them - no heat sheets to care about, using the gun for starts, everything. We also scored better than we could have imagined. When all was said and done, we won every single individual event sans the 100 backstroke.

On the flip side, I wasn't especially plesaed with our relay performances. After a nice showing in the 400 Medley yesterday (3:33.2 is near the top in the country), we weren't as competitive in the freestyles or the short medley. I'm not concerned about our effort level - that was certainly there, but it was more from the fact that we're going to be battling these two teams (along with about six-eight others) for those NCAA Qualification slots at season's end (typically only the top 10-12 relays qualify for the national meet). Believe me, as a team that's had relays sitting 11-14th in the country on more occasions than I'd care to remember, its something you look at. Nope, we're going to have to find that extra two degrees to get there.

In some, I don't think for a minute that we're as good as the scores show (yet). At the same time, I think that Kalamazoo and Hope are far better than the results show. But like I said, you can't complain with a lot of event wins, so here's the quick rundown on the day:

200 Medley Relay - Another tradition has been strengthened - that of Carthage backstrokers being much better as they swim longer distances. That was evident today in the short medleys where each of our medleys found themselves in a hole after the first leg. Chris Varner really stood out with a lead-off 26.75, his best of the season. When it comes the breaststrokes, we're similarly situated - with guys who are better as the race is longer. At the 100 though Kalamazoo, with an amazing opening half, was nearly three seconds ahead. At the end we actually juggled our lineup a bit to give Andy Bax a shot to swim a 50 fly and Nathan Ripley to anchor going off of him. Andy's split (23.74) stood out and Rips, well, I swear he false-started, but they didn't call so with a fast start like that a 21.73 looks a little slow.

1650 Freestyle - The mile was all Carthage with Bryan and Alex going 1-2. Bryan really couldn't snap out of routine 30 splits which prevented him from getting his 'B' cut, but he really didn't have anyone to race with. He lapped Alex (17:05.7) once and the rest of the field at least twice. Both swims served as a good tuneup for next week when we go for NCAA cuts.

50 Freestyle - Bryce quickly proved himself as our go-to guy for this meet once again. Today it was the 50 freestyle, where he dropped a 21.9 on the field for the win. That was helpful because Andy had a rough (and that's a nice way to say it) start that put him behind some big boys in a wavy pool. Andy struggled to a 22.47. Buck and Isaac's fate was largely the same in the first heat, but both were very respectable 23.48 and 23.85's. Man, we can't wait to get back to our pool for that event.

100 Backstroke - Our only setback of theday came in the 100 backstroke, but it came at the hands of perhaps the best backstroker in Division III swimming, Kalamazoo's Paul Ellis. Admittedly Kyle didn't have his best race (he was out nearly as fast in his 200 yesterday), but our depth was better. Bob went a 56.5, essentially equalling his best time of the season. In the first heat, Mitchell and Pat both went season-best times (57.08 and 57.87). Even without Varner, Ripley or Bob Grandchamp in there we had four backstrokers as fast as anyone we had last season.

200 Breaststroke - The 200 breast featured one of the best breaststroke lineups in the country. There was Stephen obviously, but KZoo's Espinoza and Booms are both guys we expect to see in finals at NCAAs with Hope's Phil Heyboer no slouch. Stephen went out like a lightning bolt - at the 50 he'd put a second on the field en route to a season-best 2:09.02. Scott Kaseska swam a smooth stroke - a change from his hurried pace in the 50 and 100. It was smooth, but he needed to be in a little more of a hurry. As it was, he came in in 2:21 for 5th. Derek was the same. I'm finding that he tends to have some inconsistency between races and my fingers were crossed that he'd be better from here on out. Chris Steenrod also responded with a solid swim - 2:28.6 was his best of the season.

100 Butterfly - Bryce's blazing meet continued here with his best unrested 100 fly ever. He went out with Hope's Ryan Nelis, just 1/10 back, but he came flying home to finish first in 52.73. Andy Bax didn't go out with the same speed and struggled to keep smooth in the choppy water, ultimately going 55.1 for 4th. Bryan Pelka, looking pooped from his mile went a respectable 55.76 to tie for 8th (there were six guys within 1/2 second of one another) while Tom Stowe was a place back with a lifetime best 57.5!

200 Freestyle - The transformation of Rip from a 50 freestyler to a 100 backstroker to a 200 freestyler is almost complete. This is the guy who's lifetime best was around a 1:53 at the beginning of the season. Last week it was a 1:48.8 and after today it's a 1:47.79. Rip went out and set a pace that simply dared the rest of the field to go with him. Of course, he could barely keep up with himself. His last 25 might be one of the most painful I've ever watched. After cruising to a 51.4 split at the 100, he staggered home in a 28.9 on his final split, barely holding off a hard-charging Kalamazoo swimmer for the win. Paul Busse swam a much-more evently paced race, but would have benefitted from going out more aggressively (he's a distance guy afterall so you know he'll have it in the tank). Ben and Mitchell also had very nice swims. Mitchell's was a season-best whlie Ben's was about a second off.

400 IM - By now the meet was in hand so we exhibitioned the final two events, but not before Carthage swimmers finished 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th. Remember what I said about Schneider having a really awful event right next to a really good one? Wellthis was the good one - it was actually a great one - 4:15.3 to finish second behind Steve's 4:13.7. This was easily a lifetime best for the freshman and a glimpse of what this kid can do. Stephen was showing the signs of several races (including wins in the 100 and 200 breast, 200 IM and now 400IM) while Kyle was showing similar signs of fatigue. The fatigue crown, though, goes to Alex who jumped in still exhausted from his mile earlier in the morning. He still brought it back in a very respectable 4:27, good enough for 5th.

400 Freestyle Relay - We finished up with the 400 free relay. We didn't go with our best lineup, but we did go with guys who we feel can compete for spots in that lineup. Jeff Walkotten, Rip, Paul and Bryce teamed up to go a 3:15.4, our best of the season, but it had some big holes in it splits-wise. Bryce capped his day though with the fastest split of the day - a smoking 47.06 to anchor the quartet. Our 'B' and 'C' relays were solid throughout - both under 3:30. The splits sheets use cumulative splits though and right now my mind is pooped, so I'm not going to even try to subtract them. You can check the results yourself.

Final scores: Carthage 171, Kalamazoo 158. Carthage 181, Hope 132

Next up for us is the TYR/ classic. It will be the nation's fastest small-college meet of the weekend and offer some more great racing against teams we'll be racing with for those NCAA qualifying slots. Look for our relays to be much stronger there.



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