200 Free Relay
Calvin looks to be the favorite in this event led by defending 50 freestyle champ Monica Bressler. They are returning 3 of the 4 legs and have been dominant in the MIAA and nationally. The race for second is going to be a great race between an up and coming Kalamazoo team and a traditionally strong Hope squad. So far this season, Kalamazoo has posted the faster time, but only by two tenths. Like the 50, this event is going to take all of its swimmers to come together at the same time in order for the win. Look for a great race between these three schools.
Olivet should be for fourth, having Caitlin Lohr go 23.7 flat start already this year. Alma did beat Olivet last year at MIAAs but the Comets have posted a faster time this year, and Alma will be hurting with the loss of Sarah Anderson. Albion and St. Mary’s will not be far behind and could give one of these schools a run for their money, but are lacking in some top end speed.
An event that has historically been dominated by Hope Men’s Swimming has now become a strength for Kalamazoo, thanks to the “bash bro” duo of Craig Fleming and Brian Bazzell. They should win the event and get an invite to the big meet. However, they have a dilemma in deciding their fourth leg. At the midseason Calvin Invitational, Chris Manning swam on all five relays. I think they should sit Manning on this one because a) I think their 400 free relay is stronger, and B) give another person a shot at punching their ticket. The question is who? It could be sophomore Nick Smith, who looks to be swimming better, sophomore Tyler Benmark, who has been to the big dance, or junior Kenny Stetson. Regardless, they should win this event handily.
The race for second should be very exciting as Hope and Olivet both look for B cuts, as the NCAA is taking the top 16 relays this year. Olivet should have the advantage, led by a senior class of Kellen Beckwith and Mike Hardent that’s looking to go out strong. Rounding out the relay are sophomore Brock Jackson and freshman Brian Fiorillo, who has been a key addition. They also have Aldrich, Edgar, and Munn who have split 21 this year. Hope will be hurting after losing a star filled senior class. The loss of Welsh hurts them big time; the key for Hope is picking the right combination of swimmers, as they had 8 people go 21.mid at Wheaton. Right now, the fastest lineup would be Hunt, Larson, Sommers, and Frayer, although Hazekamp, Baar, and Rose are all in the mix.
Calvin should be have the fourth spot, with junior Ross Battoclette of Calvin having a strong season and national qualifier Mark Rushlow swimming well. Andrew Mitchell and Kenton Cooper have posted solid times thus far as well. Alma’s senior Andrew Brunner and junior Max Marsh are hoping to build on the momentum they gained last year after beating Albion. The loss of Matt Witkos due to transferring is going to hurt Albion a lot.
Defending champion Sarah Sohn from Hope is returning and looks to be the favorite in the event . Ellie Watson of St. Mary’s was runner up in the event last year, but Stephie Fox of Calvin has the faster time this year. St Mary’s has a new coach this year, so it will be interesting to see if things are clicking for Watson. Calvin should dominate the event with Shelby Cloyd, Bridget Scott, and Kendra Kinzer making it back last year and freshman Claire Strunk looking to make her mark.
The Hope men should be a lock for the event between last year’s champ Josh Grabijas, Andrew Rose, or Jeff Shade. The distance events are some of the strongest for them this year, but with Grabijas suffering from mono earlier this year, there may be a few question marks with him. Tyler Benmark will look to disrupt the trio’s finish; Zach Janes and Jay Daniels has also been swimming well. One to keep an eye out for is Ross Battoclette. He has been swimming very fast this year and will be in the mix with the Kzoo distance crew. Greg Kohler of Olivet, Jacob Hamer of Alma, Mathias Bares of Calvin, and Peter Lundholm of Albion will be battling it out for that 8th spot in the top heat.
Junior Chelsea Wiese of Hope is the highest finisher last year to return to the event, and is looking to grab the title. Rachel Colasurdo of Calvin finished six one-hundreths behind Wiese last year and has posted the fastest time this year. Freshman stud Molly DeWald from Kalamazoo and Calvin College’s Caitlin Alexander posted solid midseason times. Hope has several other IMers competing in the event; senior Ashley Jasperse, sophomore Erin Holstad, and junior Lisa Heyboer. Liz Cousell of Calvin and Kristen Long of Olivet have also swam well this year and could make it into top 8.
Defending champion Chris Manning looks to continue his dominance in the Individual Medley. Hope will be hurting this year from the loss of their stellar senior class last year, and this event might not be as fast, as 3 of the top 8 graduated. The race for second should be close as junior Aaron Rittenhouse and Kevin Lodewyk battle it out. The next several spots are up for grabs, as Brunner (Alma), Robinson (Kzoo), Kraft (Calvin), Venettis (Albion), Huisingh (Hope), Knight (Olivet), and Maxwell (Olivet) are all within 3 seconds of each other. Brunner has been 1:57 and Robinson 1:58, but the rest of the pack is 1:59.6-2:00.9, which will make it a tight race. A lot of points are up for grabs here and it will be interesting to see what coaches do in putting together their lineups in this event.
Defending champion Monica Bressler of Calvin looks to take control of the splash and dash for another year, winning it last year with a time of 23.76. She has been somewhat dormant this year, but she came alive in the second half of the season. Caitlin Lohr of Olivet has been 23.74 this year and is right there. At their midseason meets, Libby Westrate of Hope has been 23.85 and Taryn Edsall of Kalamazoo has been 23.91. Westrate is the most talented out of the group, but both Edsall and Lohr are more pure sprinters. Edsall will be the first off the blocks, but she doesn’t have a lot of muscle mass so Bressler will be reeling her in. This is going to be the event to watch for the women’s meet, as all have been sub 24 and within tenths of each other.
The men’s side looks like it will be dominated by the Kalamazoo “bash bro” duo of Craig Fleming and Brian Bazzell. It’s their senior year and are looking for their first MIAA title and I’m sure will be motivated as ever to bring home the trophy. A question that always seems to be asked is just how fast will they go? Bazzell held the MIAA record in 09, but Fleming broke it last year. Another senior, Mike Harden of Olivet, will be looking to make some noise as well. Look for him to have a big meet. Sophomore Alex Armstrong (Kzoo) has made big strides in the past year and will shake things up. Olivet is very deep in this event, with Kellen Beckwith posting a top 8 finish last year, freshman star Brian Fiorillo go 21.63 this year already, as well as sophomore Brock Jackson (21.85) and Austin Munn (21.89) contributing this year. Calvin’s Mark Rushlow was left out of the top heat last year, but would have been 8th with his night swim. Hope has lost a lot of depth in this event over the last few years, but captain Patrick Frayer will be looking to step it up, going 21.76 at midseason. Another freshman stud, Jacob Hunt has been 21.68 and could be the second coming of Ryan Nelis.
Women’s 3M/Men’s 1M
Diving is neither the strongest event in the league, nor is it the most exciting, but the men’s conference championship could come down to it, as for the past two years the meet has come down to 25 and 17.5. In the women’s 3M diving, the top three divers graduated but Samantha Klaasen and Carmen Brummel are looking to continue Calvin’s strong reputation in the event. The men’s 1M also graduated swimmer/diver Spencer Johnson (Alma) and diver Ty Lattimore (Albion). Both were previous winners of diver of the meet. Freshman Cody Sanders of Olivet looks very impressive thus far, but Andrew Krafft of Calvin could be the person to beat. Alex Arbour of Kalamazoo is back after a year off, while Ray Gaskell of Hope looks to be back in form.
400 Medley Relay
Calvin is the favorite in this relay, as they have a 58 backstroker in Bressler, Elizabeth Counsell who has been 1:06.5, two 59 flyers, and multiple options for a freestyler. Even after the loss of All-American breaststroker Emily Roberts, this Calvin team is loaded with top end speed and depth.
Hope has also put together a strong relay. They have been 4:01.7 at midseason, and will drop even more at conference. Katie Schewe has been 59 in the back, Ashley Jasperse has been 59 in the fly, and Westrate is a stud (going 51.8 already this year). The question mark for them is the breaststroker. They have two 1.09s so far this season, but they can’t get too far out of the race before their back end brings it home.
The Kalamazoo women’s team will be greatly helped by freshman Molly DeWald, who split 1:03.9 at midseason. They could have an outside chance at a B cut, but will need huge swims out from their other three legs. Kaitlin Weeks has to be out with the other teams, and went 59 last year. Weber has been 59.2 in the fly last year. Freshmen Alex Stephens is more of a distance swimmer, but has split 53.4 this year. They need a big drop from her, or Katie Grue could take that spot as well. Albion should be able to hold off Alma and St. Mary’s, but the race between the Britons and Scots will be a good one.
Kalamazoo’s medley should have no problem winning this relay, but will have lost the stud power of Ellis and Espinosa. Armstrong and Manning will have to step up in the early legs, and either Benmark or Lodewyk will be on the fly. Again, Fleming is anchoring the relay like last year, which will remove any nagging doubts. In my mind, this is the race to watch, because it will be interesting to see a new lineup for Kzoo, replacing 3 of its 4 legs from last year, as well as a great race between Olivet and Hope.
Olivet’s lineup will have the front-end speed with Beckwith leading off. The breaststroke will be weak for them, as both Josh Mauk and Matt Marquette have not been under 1:00 yet. They have a lot of options for the fly and free swims. This year Rafe has split 51.4 at midseason, but Knight has also been 51 relay start. The freestyler could be Munn or Fiorillo, as both have been 47 mid already this year. Harden also has the potential to swim either the fly or free leg.
Hope will really be hurting and need some big swims from its underclassman, as the whole relay from last year graduated. Hazekamp has yet to break 52, and they are going to need a big swim out of him to stay within reach of Beckwith. They have several breaststrokers under a minute, but Huisingh was on the relay at midseason splitting 58.9, although Ludema has been 59.1 and Perkins 59.6. The fly leg will be crucial and will need a big swim out of Hunt, who has already been 50.6 flat start. Frayer will most likely anchor the relay. While Olivet will have the advantage in the backstroke, Hope has the advantage in the breast and fly. One of the Olivet flyers could step up and have a big race, but they have been somewhat inconsistent in the 100 and Hunt is having a great year. The free leg will probably be a wash, but if the race is close, it will come down to who wants it more.
Calvin should be able to put together a solid relay and be under 3:30. Backstroke will be their weak spot, having lost Garringer, but Andrew Mitchell is looking to step up into that spot. Kraft has already been 59 at midseason, and Gorham split 59 last year at leagues. With the way Battoclette has been swimming, he should be able to take over freestyle duties, freeing up Rushlow to swim fly. Rushlow was the lone qualifier for the Calvin men last year, going 50.2 at conference.
Albion and Alma should have a great race as well. Alma will be hurting with the loss of Johnson, while Albion lost their freestyler in Witkos. For Alma, Marsh, Brunner, and freshman David Case should be locks. Marsh should ideally swim breast, but if they can’t find a backstroker, he may have to step up. Albion will be led by senior Scott Venettis as their breaststroker, and have had some decent swims already out of freshmen Brad Melpolder and Thor Person.
Look for the Day 2 Preview sometime next week.