February 19, 2009

What a crazy day all around. I really don't know how to describe it, but it reminds me of a conversation I had with Jim Steen, the head coach of Kenyon, winners of 29 consecutive NCAA titles. I caught him in the hospitality room at NCAA's in 2002 - they were leading of course - day three and I asked him if they were performing up to expectations. He said, "Greg, you know when your entire team is swimming great, but all you can think about are the one or two guys who aren't? I kind of feel like that . . . but we did break five national records so I can't complain I suppose."

Well, not national records - but we had a slew of conference ones along with a huge point lead so I guess I can't complain. Even more - the women find themselves just three points shy of Wheaton - so we're rolling.

In the morning we TT'ed our 200 Free Relay where Bryce, Ripley, Bax and Ryan Ortmann went under our school record. At night, we came back and substituted Blake for Ryan and went a 1:22.74. Bryce was a bit off in the lead, but no worries when the next three guys post three of the four fastest splits in school history - Blake 20.43, Ripley 20.35, Bax 20.34.

The 'B' was no less impressive - Bob Pellican led off with a LTB 21.69 and followed by Varner (21.95), Winiecki (21.41) and Isaac (21.25). Isaac was pretty sweet in pulling away for a slim victory over Wheaton. But hey, we also had exhibition 'C' and 'D' relays. Doug Schranck posted his own 21.6 to lead off the 'C' and then we had some amazing splits - splits I wouldn't have dreamt of - Clinton 23.7, Alex Boyer 22.28 ? Stowe 22.46, Buck 21.81 and ARE YOU SERIOUS - Ben Coder 22.61? Crazy - but those relays both topped the rest of the exhibitions. It will be tough, but it would be fun to win every single relay this weekend A, B, C, D, or Z. Wheatons 200 Med is going to be tough as is the 800 Free Relay considering how we set it up.

Moving on - 500 Free - again a setback - Bryan Pelka after a brilliant morning swim, struggles to get 7th place. It was ugly - no way around that - and an aberration. What it wasn't though, was a problem - not when Alex VanHuis goes from 4:47 to 4:42, or Winiecki goes from 4:45 to 4:43.9, or Adam Glover dropping down to 4:46.0 - all significant lifetime bests. In the morning, Eric Ross burned up the legs in the first 150-200 and quickly faded to 9th. At night, he held off on the legs for 200 yards - enough that I was scared he was going to go 4:55 - but he didn't at the 200 yard mark he turned it on and cruised to a LTB 4:49.76. Chris wasn't quite as sharp, but he went under 500 for the third time in his life to finish 12th. Also in prelims we saw Derek Schneider go 4:44.5, and Alex Boyer go out like Eric - hard and fast - and stagger home in a season-best 5:00.75. Man, I wish there was a 4x500 free relay - think about it - 4:41, 4:42, 4:43, 4:44.

200 IM - another setback (as chronicled this morning) - at night - redemption. Derek Schneider and Doug Schranck pulled out a 1-2 finish - both with lifetime bests. Doug took his out in a ridiculous 24.14 - and I thought he was going to die, but he cruised home in the fastest free split of the meet 27.19. It wasn't enough to catch Derek and his fast middle-half. Derek captured his first conference title. Bookending the final heat - Tom and Pat gave us some excellent swims - both were a little off in the night, but both (2:02.57 and 2:04.6 respectively) showed some good things in their individual splits (Tom fly 25.35 and Pat Back 29.9) that give us something to look forward to in the coming days. In the morning, Adam vanHuis went a lifetime best 2:02.80 as did Ben Coder going from 2:10 to 2:06.6 and Clinton and Alex Boyer going 2:08.9 and 2:09.6 respectively.

50 Free - no there weren't many setbacks in this event - but there are memories of two years ago when Andy Bax tied Tim Linn for the conference title (21.18) and a freshman named Nathan Ripley stunk up the morning session, and was ready to kill me after replacing him on the 200 free relay at night, but still going fast enough to win the consol heat. Tonight was a different story and I never thought I'd say this but Carthage has a sprint program now. Andy Bax first breaks Bryce's championship record with a B-Cut of 20.84. No ties, no missing a cut by 0.01 - just him going sub-21. Then there's Rip - 4th at the 45 yard mark surging to sneak in to second with a LTB and 'B' cut of 21.07. Blake just missed the 'B' cut with a 21.19 followed by Bryce in 21.40. 50 Free - 1-2-3-4 can you believe it (and don't forget we had Bob and Doug go 21.6's to lead off relays). In consols Isaac and Varner reped us well both went lifetime bests - Isaac 22.14 and Chris 22.20. In the morning, among exhibtiion swims we also had Ryan Ortmann in 21.89, Winiecki 22.22, Buck Hoover 22.37 - all times that would have scored, closely followed by Dan Jones 22.73, and Alex Boyer 23.28.

Finally 400 Medley Relay - perhaps our weakest shot at getting a cut. Two weeks ago I asked Chris Varner what he hoped to go - he thought he could go a 54-low in the 100 back he said, "54 isn't fast enough - we need a 52" I told him. Sometimes all you ahve to do is plant the seed and from there - Chris launched into a 52.64 - 2nd or third fastest in school history. Stephen next followed with a breast split of 56.17 - a very conservative split with elbows well below the water's surface version. At that point we had just a slight lead on Wheaton, but we knew that like us, they had a great flyer. Bryce split a 51.45 and at the 300 yard mark we were tied 2:40.26 to 2:40.26 with Illinois Wesleyan just .59 behind. Then Nathan Ripley went out and broke our school record 100-free relay split - dropping a 45.32 on the field and giving us a two second win, and NCAA 'B' cut.

That cut looks stronger though when you consider that our 'B' relay flyer - Doug Schranck posted a 49.8 split - a time that puts us around 3:23.8 and in the top ten or twelve in the nation. He wasn't the only one though - Bob Pellican lifetime best 54.02, Andy Bax a solid 1:00.37, then Doug and finally Blake a LTB 46.21. I'm telling you, I feel good about that 400 Free Relay on Day Three.

The 'C' 'D' and 'E' relays kept the winning streak alive through day one. In the 'C' Kyle finally posted a lifetime best 54.12, as did Adam VanHuis 1:01.7 on breast. Tom Stowe knocked out a 54.11 before Buck flew home in 49.0 - Three 400 Medleys under 3:40 - not too shabby - and oh yeah, our 'D' they went 3:40.9 - Pat lifetime best 56.3 leadoff, Mike, a tight (as in muscles) 1:01.3 breast split then Clinton - an amazing 55.46 fly split (look out 200 tomorrow) - before Isaac closed with a LTB 47.98. Our streak was in jeapordy though with the 'E' relay - Eric Ross wasn't overly quick in our lead off, though Chris' breast split was a lifetime best. I told Derek to swim his 100 fly like he would his 400 IM tomorrow - if he did that, I'll take a 53.9 any day. Still - we were a good two body lengths down to Wheaton, but not after Ryan hunted the Thunder down with a 48.52 split to edge them in 3:45.48.

So that's day one and here we stand: Carthage 309, Wheaton 182, IWU 156, Rose-Hulman 104, Millikin 94, North Central and Augustana 52. More tomorrow. Now, time to check results elsewhere in the country.

Tomorrow's prelims begin at 10:30 - finals at 6:00 - we've got a little something up our sleeves in the 800 Free Relay.



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