February 1, 2011

For as long as I have attended Carthage, and certainly dating a ways before then as well, there has always been an intense rivalry between Wheaton and Carthage. As of late, the Red Men have certainly held the upper hand. Wheaton had put up some pretty impressive swims at mid-season, but that is pretty standard for them, and having more or less made an exhibition out of them at conference the past 3 years, we went into the meet very confident. Coach Belton reminded us all week how strong of a team they were and how difficult it would be to win, but I think everyone felt pretty good about our chances. We were all pumped up and ready to destroy our conference rivals.

We departed for Wheaton by bus at 10:00 A.M. It is not too bad of a bus drive, only about 1.5 hours from Kenosha. When we got to the pool everyone sat around for awhile as per usual. Eventually everyone started stretching and getting ready to do a little swimming, maybe with some extra motivation from coach. By the time the meet was about to start, you could feel the energy in the pool. The rivalry is not only fierce between Wheaton and the Carthage men’s teams, the women’s teams also have a rivalry all their own. Each team wanted to leave with a win that day.

The meet got started with the 200 Medley Relays which Wheaton is very strong in. They came away with the win, but the times we posted for our relays were impressive compared to our regular results throughout the season. The 1000 followed next where we took advantage of one of their weaknesses as the distance crew swept the top 4 spots, giving us a lead and some extra energy to finish strong to the first break. When we got to that break, we were up by only a few points. Wheaton had performed strongly in the 200 free and 100 breast, but wins in the 100 back and 200 fly by Bob Pellican and myself had served us well. In the last event before the break, Ryan Ortmann put together a dominating performance in the 50 free, going a near season-best (21.64). It was that which gave us the lead into the break. We had some strong events coming up and definitely looked forward to the possibility of putting away the Thunder before the next break.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the Thunder outscored us handily in the 100 free, an event we definitely consider to be one of our strongest. The 200 backstrokers followed up nicely with Kyle Drake taking the win and Jake Carabelli narrowly touching third in a strong in-season effort. Everyone was getting behind each other and supporting each other the way coach had wanted us to all season. This was important to everyone, and we did not want to be the ones walking away disappointed. Wheaton then went 1-2 in the 200 breast and managed to win the 500, though we swept the rest of the spots. The next event figured to be one that had the potential to be a large determining factor in the meet’s final outcome, and it featured several very talented swimmers from both schools. However, the race did not turn out to be as close as anticipated as Wheaton’s Matt Gallagher easily downed the field with a very impressive time (51.77).

At this point, things looked pretty grim for the Red Men. I was not aware of the score until Andrew informed us in our team meeting during the second break. If we won the 200 IM while scoring three other swimmers AND won the 400 Free Relay, we would win the meet. It seemed like our chances were actually very good at this point. We had our best swimmers in the 200 IM and our 400 Free Relay is an event we usually feel pretty good about. The 200 IM went just as it needed to as Drake came through with the win and the others placed accordingly. Now, the stage was set. Whoever won the relay would win the meet. The noise in the pool was almost deafening. Through the first two legs, we were basically dead even. Then, Wheaton used their strongest split in the third swimmer, an interesting tactic that gave them the lead heading into the anchor leg. Isaac dove in trailing and pulled out an amazing (47.28) split. But it was not enough; Wheaton had touched first to win the meet.

Were we upset to lose? Of course we were. Is it the worst thing to ever happen to us? It most definitely is not. This will only fuel our fire these next few weeks coming into conference and really bring out the best in the Red Men. We were coming off an extremely difficult week of practice that left most of us practically run into the ground. There has been a noticeable difference in the level of intensity this year compared to last, and it was certainly wearing on us at this point. However, excuses are only excuses. They really are not worth anything. We gave all we had and turned in some quality swims, but it was not enough. Wheaton had been roaring and ready to go and made it obvious that they wanted the win very badly. We will have our chance to redeem ourselves in 3 weeks, and we plan on doing so and then some. If you are going to be around Wheaton, IL February 17-19, I suggest stopping by the Chrouser Natatorium on the campus of Wheaton College because things are fixing to get pretty wild.
--Doug Schranck



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