GVSU swim team off to quick start, hopes to finish fast
A quick start off the blocks does not guarantee a race just as one meet does not ensure a season.
Although, after impressive showings against Division I opponent Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Grand Valley State University men and women swim teams have opened their respective 2013-14 seasons out ahead on the gun.
“We’ve never beaten Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and our men took them down this past weekend by a pretty decent point differential,” GVSU head coach Andy Boyce said. “Our women weren’t quite as quick as theirs, but we swam better than ever, and our times were excellent for this time of the year.”
The GVSU men, who placed 11th at nationals last season, won the road non-conference season opener 183.5-114.5 and took 12 of 16 events. Sophomore Gianni Ferrero won three events (100-meter backstroke, 500-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley), while juniors Sven Kardol (200-meter fly, 200-meter backstroke) and Milan Medo (200-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke) each won two.
“On the men’s side, we’re looking at Gianni Ferrero, Milan Medo and Michael Griffith, but then also Danny Abbott and Tristan Comerford, a couple of freshman who have started off strong, to contribute consistently,” Boyce said.
The lady Lakers, who placed fourteenth at nationals last year, fell 191-112 to Wisconsin-Milwaukee but won three events and finished second in nine. Sophomore Taylor Wiercinski took both the one- and three-meter diving board events, and sophomore Sarah Roeser won the 50-meter freestyle.
“On the women’s side, we’re looking for big things from Danielle Vellier and Caitlyn Madsen, as well as Emily Gallagher and Meghan Falconer, who have started off well as freshmen,” Boyce said.
After disappointing narrow and controversial second place finishes to Wayne State University at last year’s conference GLIAC meet, both the GVSU men and women are eager for redemption.
“I want to beat Wayne,” junior Emily Eaton said when asked about her primary goals for the season. “Last year was definitely a tough season for us. We were pretty much rebuilding the team and so this year, we’re coming in with a lot of confidence on both sides. That confidence is growing in each swim we see each other do, and we’re pushing each other hard. Just working hard to keep the momentum going.”
Both GVSU men and women teams will also keep their eyes set further down their lanes toward the other end of the pool and season. After qualifying as many as 28 student-athletes for nationals in past seasons, GVSU could send upwards of 20 once again in 2014.
“We always push ourselves, and we look for teams that can push back,” Boyce said. “This year, in addition to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, we’ll swim against Michigan State and Ball State, and we hope to be challenged. That’s what makes us better.”
In racing, proper pacing is every bit as essential as a quick start, and GVSU will take the season stroke-by-stroke. The Lakers intend to race well in conference meets against Wayne and Ashland, Division I meets against Michigan State and Ball State, and at a mid-year three-day invitational at Calvin College leading up to conference final and national meets to ensure their cumulative success.
“We believe in racing, in both practices and meets,” Boyce said. “We try to race as much as possible so that we can get that race setting and learn how to race throughout the year. We’re excited to see where we are by the Calvin Invitational, and when it comes time to swim in conference and national championships, we’ll hopefully be ready.”
Added rest for bigger meets should also play a role in achieving lower times, making the quick marks of this early season by the Lakers all the more impressive.
“I’m not sure where the guys on the team were last year at this point, but we’re doing real well right now, especially considering how we swam against Wisconsin-Milwaukee,” Abbott said. “We’ll kick our butts for a while, and when the time comes to rest up and taper, we’ll see where we’re at. If our times aren’t exactly where we want them to be by the Calvin Invitational, there’ll still be a good amount of time left to work hard and get them down for conference and national meets.”
GVSU will race Friday at Calvin College, where the men will race Calvin and the women will race Hillsdale College, before making the trek to race at Ashland on Saturday.
“There will be a lot of swimming this weekend, and it’ll be a good test for us to see how our kids respond to the travel and to a Friday and Saturday meet in the same week,” Boyce said. “Taylor Wiercinski qualified for nationals the first meet out, and we’re hoping that sets a tone. We’re off to a great start, and we’re excited to see what the team can do. We’ve been working hard in practice and if they keep that up, the rewards of fast times and great dives will follow. “