With strong performances expected from both the men and women, Gustavus hopes to end the season atop the conference, together, for the second year in a row
Head Swimming and Diving coach Jon Carlson’s 19th season at the helm of Gustavus aquatics has been one unraveling in a somewhat different fashion than the team’s recent history would indicate.
This weekend, the Gusties head to the natatorium on the University of Minnesota campus to compete in the MIAC Championships. Gustavus will serve as the host team this year.
“Right now, emotions are running high from nerves to excitement, but overall we are coming in to this meet knowing that we have trained so hard for the last five months just for this weekend,” said Krista Koenen. ”We know that we have the best cheering section, the best coaches and have the most fun out of all the teams in the conference, so we are just going to go out there and put together three days of amazing swims and whatever happens, happens.”
Most notably, on the women’s side of the pool, a team that has won the past two MIAC titles doesn’t head to Minneapolis this weekend with much hope for a number-one finish.
After losing a talented senior class along with some integral cogs of their championship system, the Gusties send a team to the conference meet that they have invested confidence in, but outside optimism surrounding a top MIAC finish is somewhat dimmed.
Gustavus’ season has seen definitive ups and downs, with high finishes at both the St. Ben’s and St. Catherine’s Invitationals contrasted by tough dual losses to Minnesota State University-Mankato, Carleton and a two-point loss to rival St. Olaf.
Junior Carrie Gunderson heads back to the pool for Gustavus hoping to defend her two-time reign over the 500 freestyle event and also to break her conference record-setting times. Sophomore Anika Erickson finished second in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke a year ago, and the Junior diving tandem of Brittani Matzke and Maria Freund, along with speedy First-year swimmer Dajana Vidovic, hope to contend legitimately for the third conference title in a row.
On the men’s side, optimism follows a team ready to defend their 2008 conference title (their seventh of the past eight seasons) heading into this weekend’s events.
This season, the men enjoyed a great deal of success, winning both the St. John’s and St. Catherine’s Invites, as well as a second place finish out of eight teams at Steven’s Point. They too suffered pivotal dual losses to MSU and St. Olaf but beat MIAC foe Carleton early in the season.
“As always our distance team is exceptional, but it is the “bubble” swimmers on the roster in the middle distance and sprint groups which are going to really determine the outcome of the meet. The great part about our team is that everyone has their own role to play and we are all swimming to inspire one another,” said Kevin Horn. “We had many great swimmers not make our conference team because our depth. As a result of having great mix of underclass and upperclass leaders on the team, I feel this year our confidence is equivalent if not stronger then previous years.”
With an emphasized strength in their depth, Gustavus is led by the ever-consistent and dominant duo of Senior Matt Stewart and Junior Skylar Davis, with help from Sophomore distance swimmers Whitaker Davis and John Rice, as well as Seniors Dave Pearson and Tyler Wakefield. Skylar Davis and First-year Billy Schultze were honored by the conference as their Men’s Swmming Athlete of the Week, for their strong performances in the Steven’s Point and St. John’s Invitationals respectively.
“We will need some strong performances from our relay efforts. Also, our 11-18 guys to move up into places that they can score more points than they are seeded. For example getting a 20th seeded person in to the consolation finals (9-16th place) or having someone seeded 13th move into the Championship heat (top 8),” said Matt Stewart. “Scored out as seeded right now we are down about 50 points, but we were down 80 points last year at this time and we ended up winning by 120 points. So our confidence level is relatively high. We will need to bring our Gustie atmosphere, and will be looking to our teammates in the stands to be leading the way in cheering.”
On an academic note, the CSACC honored both of Gustavus’ Swimming and Diving squads for their excellence within the classroom. The men’s 3.15 collective GPA placed them 25th in Division III while the women and their 3.28 GPA was 37th best in the Nation. The Gusties have been named to this team each of the past five years, emphasizing the well-rounded individuals this team boasts.