GVSU swim favorites heading into GLIAC meet

GVL / Emily Frye
Junior Gianni Ferrero

GVL / Emily Frye Junior Gianni Ferrero

Alex Eisen

The smallest of details matter when a conference championship is at stake. The Grand Valley State swimming and diving team won’t leave anything to chance with GLIAC titles in reach for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“Gonzalo, when you shaving your head?”

GVSU head coach Andy Boyce couldn’t help but tease the sophomore swimmer from Spain upon seeing hair sticking out from his cap. Gonzalo Rodriguez-Villasonte responded in jest with the classic college answer, ‘I haven’t had the time yet.’

“I could do it,” Boyce said. “I’m really good. Nice and smooth and with no blood… OK, maybe a little blood.”

On Tuesday, a day before the GLIAC Championships held at Waterford Mott High School on Feb. 10-13, the topic of conversation was literally shaving to shave seconds off the swimmers’ times.

That’s the sport — anything to stay on top. The men’s team is undefeated this season and chasing its second consecutive conference championship. The women’s team only has one non-conference loss on its resume and is aiming for its first GLIAC title since the 2008-09 season.

“We are the team to beat,” said senior Nick Zacek. “It’s an honor to be in that position. It does give us a little bit more pressure, but I think it also gives us that incentive to work that much harder.”

With that extra motivation, Boyce anticipates great things from both squads.

“We expect to see some nice time drops, school records fall, freshman records fall and hopefully conference championships,” he said. “We can’t control what the other teams do, but we can control what we do. Great team camaraderie is key to finishing strong.”

The Lakers confidently label themselves as the favorites, but are still aware there are capable competitors racing in the lanes next to them or stepping up to the diving boards. Wayne State and Northern Michigan have been singled out as potential party-crashers for both the men and women.

“Wayne State have been our rivals for a long time,” said senior Faith Bart. “We had a dual-meet against them a couple of weeks ago and they didn’t put up as many points as we thought they would. But, then they had a (much better) meet after that and showed how much they are ready to crack down, just like we are.”

Both squads have been fairly balanced in terms of possible scorers.

“We are a pretty well-rounded team,” Boyce said. “We don’t have a certain area were we need to pick up any slack in and about an equal amount of people entered into each event.”

On the men’s side, senior Gianni Ferrero enters four of his five individual events with the top-seed time, sophomore Jared Gregory is undefeated this season on the 1-meter board and freshman Marius Mikalauskas recently broke one of the oldest GVSU pool records in the 200-meter breaststroke with a time of 2:01.87.

For the women, junior Leonie Van Noort has been breaking records all season and is seeded first with the fastest times in all five of the individual events she is entered in.

Sophomore Sam Postmus did her best to keep up with Van Noort by smashing a pair of GVSU pool records in the 200-meter freestyle (1:52.37) and 200-meter individual medley (2:06.09) in the Lakers’ last meet against Findlay on Jan. 23.

That said, winners aren’t decided on previous times — it all comes down to race day. Times can be good indicators, but nothing is guaranteed. Therefore, nothing should be overlooked because the difference between achieving a personal best and missing the podium could come down to the aerodynamics of a swimmer’s skull.

“You just have to focus on the little things,” Bart said. “You have to go into a specific race knowing exactly what you’re going to do and you can’t lose focus because one little thing can screw up your whole race.”

The preliminary rounds will begin at 10 a.m. each day with the championship finals set for 5:30 p.m. The NCAA Division II National Championships will be held in Indianapolis in March.