As a coach, I have a new found respect for distance swimmers, and an appreciation for these events. Being able to pace and communicate more with your swimmers gives coaches more involvement in the race, which I have really enjoyed doing. Anyways, onto breaking down the last day of the 2011 MIAA championship meet.
The women’s event will be dominated by Sarah Sohn, last year’s winner. She should be way ahead of everyone else, but needs to still swim her own race in order to qualify for nationals. Ellie Watsen, last year’s runner up will look for a personal best, but she was a bit slower at midseason. It will be interesting to see how she adapts to her new coach’s taper. Rachel Restum of Albion returns as the third place finisher at the 2010 league meet, and has been swimming well. Bethany Schmall of Hope has been swimming well in the 1000 this year, and could make some noise in the mile. Shelby Cloyd of Calvin looked very strong, posting a time of 18:16.14, faster than her last year time at conference. Teammates Bridget Scott and Claire Strunk look to build on their midseason meet, while Kalamazoo’s Emily Bair and Olivet’s Jessica Howard will battle to get to the podium.
Hope will once again dominate this event on the men’s side, returning Grabijas, Rose, and Shade. If the mono has any effect on Grabijas, I would guess it has the most in this race. He went to nationals last year, so hopefully he can return to form and get to dance this year. Shade was invited to nationals during the cap increase (the year of the “suit”) but failed to make it back last year. They should have no problem going 1-2-3. Kenny Heidel and Jay Daniels of Kalamazoo will try to hold their own, with both having solid seasons. Mathais Bares of Calvin had a strong midseason meet and is looking to build on that momentum. He should move up and could get fourth; he has been dropping a lot of time this year. Peter Lundholm of Albion and Jacob Hammer of Alma will be battling in a tight race, but Hammer has been swimming very well this year. The mile looks to be pretty weak again this year, but there will be some exciting finishes. Depending on how Kzoo’s D crew does, they could lose some points here if Lundholm or Hammer step up. Kohler and Mervenne are also right in here with the rest of the pack
Monica Bressler will most likely swim the 200 back, and again is the heavy favorite. Sophomore Laura Cameron and junior Lisa Heyboer from Hope are also returning as last year’s second and third place finishers. Freshman Maria Kieft and senior Katheryn Schewe swam well at midseason and could also do some damage. Keep an eye out for Kieft; she dropped a lot of time from prelims to finals at midseason, being much more aggressive at night. If she learned from that she could be a force. Caitlin Alexander of Calvin also finaled in the event last year, and is hoping to make a return trip to the podium. Katie Grue of Kalamazoo is coming off a good midseason meet, and Kaitlin Weeks will hope to squeak into the top eight. Jordan Bryde of Alma could also mix up some point totals, but Calvin does have a strong duo in Brianna Vanden Ende and Briana Seaks.
The men will not have the same stud power in the event, having lost its top three finishers. But this opens the field up, and will make for a great race. I think this event is going to be important in deciding the meet because Hope will have Hazekamp, but likely no one else in the top eight, while Kalamazoo has to have great swims by Brower and Armstrong to take on Beckwith and Mette. With how good Battoclette has been swimming, he’ll probably go the 100 today. I think Hazekamp gets the win, but Brower will have to bring his A game. Beckwith could have a big swim here since he swam over the summer and might have better endurance for the race. Nick Edgar (Olivet), Sam Allison (Calvin), Rittenhouse (Hope), and Andrew Blank (Albion) will be fighting it out for the last spot.
This is Libby Westrate’s bread and butter. She’s been just about a second faster this year than she was at league meet. The rest of the field is just going to try and hang on, but will definitely have some great races. Loren Weber, Taryn Edsall, and Alex Stephens make up the Kalamazoo sprint crew. Weber was a bit off in this event at midseason, but posted a 53 last year. Edsall has made a nice drop since last year and is proving that she can swim more than a 50. Caitlin Lohr of Olivet is coming off a 6th place finish last year and is looking to move up. Stephanie Fox, Margaret Rechel, Kendra Kinzer, and Rachel Colasurado make up Calvin’s sprinters. Hope Freshman Skylar Darish is also hoping to get pumped up by some walk out music in the night session as well.
The third and final “bash bro” event will again be dominated by Fleming and Bazzell. After those two, Fiorillo, Jackson, Harden (Olivet) will go up against Frayer and Hunt (Hope), as well as Rushlow (Calvin), and Benmark (Zoo). The race between Hunt and Fiorillo is going to be a good one, and I could see a rivalry starting up between the two. Rushlow could throw a wrench into the mix by bumping down some of the Olivet and Hope guys, and Frayer will try and make a name for him as Hope’s go to freestyler. Rushlow could go the 2 fly though. Jackson will try and get under the 47 barrier flat start, and Harden, a senior, is going to have a great last league race. Munn is another one that might go under the radar. He didn’t swim it at midseason, but split 46.7 on the relay. Benmark could go the 2 back as it will probably be easier to final, but they don’t have many other people in this event. Also, with the way Battoclette has been swimming, he could easily make it top 8 here.
The top two finishers graduated last year, but freshman Molly DeWald will be the favorite. Elizabeth Counsell of Calvin should finish up behind her, with Ashley Collins of Albion and Audrey Dalrymple of St. Mary’s battling it out. The 2 breast is Collin’s stronger event, but Counsell will probably have the advantage. Dalrymple had a solid midseason meet after taking a year off. She qualified for nationals two years ago in the event. Other solid swims we’ve seen this year have been from Alma’s Madison Behmlander, and Olivet’s Crystal Jager. Anna Heckenliable and Erin Holstad of Hope swam well in the event last year, although did not do it at midseason. Kate Chamberlian (Zoo) and Sarah Kruger (Hope) are very close together and should make for a good race.
Manning should take care of business here for his third event win. Although Huisingh tends to be a faster in season swimmer, Manning beat him heads up last weekend at the quad meet. The race was very close last year, but I’m going to give the advantage to Manning. It’s hard to gauge where Venettis is this year, but he had a huge meet last season and will look to repeat that performance. Look for him to step up in this event. Stephen Kraft of Calvin has dropped two seconds since last year’s conference meet, and looks spot on going into leagues. Hope has some nice depth with Ludema and Perkins backing up Huisingh. Perkins is more of a sprint guy though, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. Lodewyk should sit this one, so Kalamazoo’s other breaststrokers need to step up like Robinson and Stetson. Josh Mauk will be right there with Hope and Kzoo’s depth guys. This event is going to be important between the depth guys need to fight to make it to the top heat. This year’s league meet looks very close and a swing one way or the other could decide or finalize the meet.
The 2 fly is a very weak event, with last year’s event only scoring 12 out of a possible 16 people. Kalamazoo junior Katie Grue is the event’s top returner, and has already been faster than her tapered time last year. She qualified for nationals her freshman year and is wants to dance again this year. Sohn could be in this event, and if she is, she’s definitely in the mix. Hope’s Chelsea Wiese is also returning and looking for a big swim. However, Kalamazoo Danielle Williams has made a comeback after studying abroad her junior year. Holly Williams of Albion put up solid times this year, while Ashley Jasperse of Hope could do some damage as well. Jasperse has been 2:12 in season, so she could come out and turn some heads. Haley Pritkin (Kalamazoo), Kristen Bjorklund (Calvin), Gen Spittler (St. Mary’s), and Erica Schlabach (Olivet) are all poised to make top eight as well.
The men’s side won’t look as weak, but it will not be a strong event throughout the league. Olivet has a chance to really do some work here. Rafe Maxwell, Joel Knight, and Zach Burgess all finaled last year and could take points away from Kalamazoo and Hope. Maxwell is the returning event winner, although I think Lodewyk swims this, and it will be a great race between the two. The advantage goes to Maxwell, but we haven’t fully seen what Lodewyk can do. If Rushlow swims this, it will be a great race between him, Maxwell and Lodewyk, as all have been 1:55 or better. Brunner (Alma) had a very solid swim last year, but will be challenged by Zach Janes, Reid Carlson, and Kenny Heidel of Kalamazoo. I don’t think Janes swims the mile this year so he will be fresh. Kalamazoo will have even more depth in the event with Chris Lueck and Tyler McFarland. Hope will be hurting in this event, as their best 2 flyer right now is Brian Yount, who did not score last year, and will need to really step it up. Clayton Sommers is their other option, but unless one of them has a breakout swim, I don’t think either of them will final.
Men’s 3 Meter
Andrew Kraft of Calvin looks like he’ll walk away with a victory here. He’s been outstanding this year. Mike Heydlauff of Hope and Alex Arbour of Kalamazoo will most likely be battling for second. Arbour has been rounding out this half of the season after getting the rust off during the first part. Ray Gaskell (Hope) will be close behind, but I don’t see him catching either of them. Andrew O’Meara of Alma should also place. One key thing to note here is that Kalamazoo does have three divers that can compete on both 1 and 3 meter. This could be a crucial element, as it seems Hope only has 2 divers.
400 Free Relay
Hope is the favorite in this race, with Westrate, Laura Cameron, Sohn, and Schmall. They should be able to hold off Calvin, although it could be a tight race. The team of Bressler, Fox, Colurasado, and Kinzer will give them a run for the money. Westrate is the best 100 sprinter in the league will give Hope a lead, and it is up to the other ladies to maintain it. With Calvin losing three of their four legs from last year, it may be too much. Kalamazoo should be next with Stephens, Edsall, Grue, and Weber. They should be able to put together a solid relay. The race between Olivet, St. Mary’s, and Albion should be close as well. All but two of the women are returning on the relays; St. Mary’s and Albion each lost one. The question now is whether either team can replace that leg and have someone step up. Alma will not be far behind, which should make for a great all around race.
Kalamazoo is favored to sweep the relays, and should win this one. Bazzell and Fleming will start and close the race, with Armstrong and Manning in the middle. If Manning goes the 2 free relay, then Benmark is the next safest bet. Olivet is safe with second with a team of Jackson, Beckwith, Fiorillo, and Munn. Harden could also sub in for Beckwith, who could potentially be on four other relays. Hope has really lost a lot of the sprinting power they had just a few years ago. They should be a lock for third with Hunt, Rose, Larson, and Frayer. Calvin could put together a decent relay as well, if everyone is on. They need big swims out of Battoclette and Rushlow though. Mitchell has been having a solid year, and either Peter Johnson or Kenton Cooper could step up and be that fourth spot. The race between Alma and Albion will be another tight race, but I’d give the advantage to Alma. They had a good midseason swim with Brunner, Marsh, Hammer, and David Case. I think Brunner looked a little off in that swim, but I expect him to be on his game come leagues. I think Albion’s relay needs a stud to go 47-48 range if they want to stay in the race with Alma.
With the conference meet just weeks away, teams are gearing up and shaving down. This year’s league meet looks like it could be just as close as the last two years, which makes it that much more fun for us to watch as spectators. Good luck to all the MIAA swimmers!
Special thanks to Jake Taber for giving me some great kernels of MIAA wisdom.