November 1, 2009

The cliche says, "It's not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game." We put that cliche to the test yesterday. It was a typical Hope-Carthage match-up with the lead going back and forth event, right up until the 200 Breaststroke. Hope went 1-2 on us and then minimized Doug Schrank's win in the 100 fly by going 2-3-4.

That wasn't enough for the guys and the fans to get up for the final relays. Every voice was at full throttle and helped push the guys to TWO sub-3:16 free relays. Even those weren't enough to withstand Hope's final point total . . . or so we thought.

So after the relay, I'm surrounded by and talking to the guys - still jacked from the race they just saw when our Sports Information Assistant comes by. He whispers, "133-129". Really? It was that close? "We won." What? No. Go recheck the score. He did and he was right - and for the next hour I sat and wondered how on earth we pulled it out. It wasn't until I was reading the results that I discovered Hope had DQ'd a relay way back in the first event.

No matter really, because even when we'd thought we'd lost we could appreciate the meet we saw - and what a meet it was. Nathan Ripley put up three big swims for us. If you'd have seen after practice on Friday, you wouldn't have imagined he could swim another 200 yards, much less race it. He not only raced, he won the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles while adding a 47.35 split on our 'A' free relay.

Rip was one of many highlights on the day. To win, we knew we'd need some breaks in a few events. The 1000 free was one such event so we opted to slip Kyle Drake in. He responded with a 9:54.60 - the fifth fastest 1000 in school history. While he was en route to a win though, Eric Ross and Jeff Shade showed why dual meets can bring out the best in guys. The two were back and forth over the final 400 yards and Eric, who often been a better trainer than racer, finally dashed all Hope by putting his head down the final 12 yards to finish just 0.25 ahead of Jeff.

Doug Schranck also had a big day. He swept both relays and when given a shot to swim on the 'A' free relay gave us a 48.8 split. His fly times were big-time drops from where he was at a year ago and gave us a couple of well-timed victories.

A couple other observations of things we need to work on in the upcoming weeks:
  • Underwater Kicking: Our work here is paying off. As good as our backstrokers and flyers have been, I'd never say that underwater kicking was a real asset. That's beginning to change, and it was especially evident in the 100 backstroke where Chris, Bob, Jon, and Pat all pushed far beyond their normal kick zone.
  • Breaststrokers: We're going to need our breaststrokers to develop and develop quickly. While Ben, Mike and Adam were all much faster than this time last year, we got 1-2-3'd in the 100 breaststroke for the first time ever. Several breaststroke recruits were on campus, but they won't be here until next year, plus, I'm not that patient. The development of these three guys plus freshman Tyler Smith is vital to our Medley relays this year.
  • Freshmen: Our new guys have a lot of raw potential, but were a little overwhelmed by the early speed of racing at the college level. We saw a lot of guys either giving up 1/2 second in the first 25 of a 100 or holding a little too much in reserve in the 200's. The lone exception was Steve Mathe. If you haven't read the blog post about Steven you need to, but he jumped out to a bistering pace in the 500 - he was leading at the 200 mark. At that point he died on his shield, but he also posted a lifetime best (and entered the all-time list at 49th). More importantly, he showed the aggressiveness that we can tame into a great racer.
  • Depth: We relied on our big dogs in a big way during this meet. On six different events we only scored two guys (out of maximum of three) and finished 6th (i.e. out of points) six times. While a handful of swimmers can score well at NCAA's, we'll have to rely on our next line of guys if we're going to defend our CCIW title.
That next line of guys will get a chance to shine next weekend. We'll be leaving some of our big guns at home as we take on a much improved Lake Forest team on Friday night. If that next line of guys doesn't rise to the occasion, we could find ourselves on the short end of the stick.

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