GVSU men’s swimming and diving captures fourth straight GLIAC Championship, women finish second

GVL / Emily Frye
GVSU Mens and Womens Swim and Dive team compete on the final day of competition during the GLIAC Championships on Saturday February 17, 2018.

GVL / Emily Frye GVSU Men’s and Women’s Swim and Dive team compete on the final day of competition during the GLIAC Championships on Saturday February 17, 2018.

Louis Ricard

The stage has been set. 

Ben Walling enters as the last member of the relay team with Grand Valley State tied in first overall with Wayne State. Walling hits two huge turns and gasps for all the air he can get, the finish line on the horizon. Last turn for Walling, only 25 meters away from being crowned a champion, and the junior gives one more push to seal the deal.

With the win, the GVSU men’s swimming and diving won yet another GLIAC Championship in 2018, their fourth in the row, while the women fell short for second place overall behind Wayne State. Competition began Wednesday, Feb. 14, and ended Saturday, Feb. 17, in Jenison, Michigan.

However, the men had to give their everything to be able to set foot on the top of the podium.

“We had some ups and downs,” said GVSU head coach Andy Boyce. “Diving was up the whole time, men and women. To be able to pull through it the way the men did and continue to drop time even when they were tired and sore, it was awesome.”

Diving may have been the deciding factor in the men’s win this year. In the second diving event, Joe Gucwa took the lead in the last round, followed by his teammate Jared Gregory. Gucwa, a senior for GVSU, ended his season on the highest note possible, winning GLIAC Diver of the Year along with a fourth GLIAC Championship under his belt.

For diving coach Steve Burciaga, this accomplishment is one that goes far beyond the athletics. 

“It’s a family affair,” Burciaga said. “The girls and the guys are supporting (them) all the way through the meet. It’s not just the coaches; it’s also the camaraderie of the divers to be able to support each other. It’s a great family, and I love being part of it.”

This notion of family is what got the men through tough situations this year, as every swimmer competing got the chance to hear the screams of encouragement from their teammates. During the 400-meter freestyle relay, the sideline did not skip a beat while cheering for their very own. Boyce could not yell out some advice, nor did he seem to want to, as he was in the middle of the pack, cheering along with his team.

In a vastly individual sport, GVSU has learned that individual talent can only go so far, especially Walling. The tall junior could not contain his excitement, dancing around the pool while giving high-fives to a few of his teammates who had just finished their event.

When he heard the name of his school called out for first place at the end of the meet, Walling ran to the GVSU banner to take it off the wall so that the whole team could hold it on the podium. He knew his team had won one of the toughest competitions of the year.

“It was a rough meet, and the divers helped us a lot,” Walling said. “We just carried the momentum and got hype and brought it home.”

Although the women could not repeat this year, GVSU showed resilience, and the season is far from being over with Nationals coming up. 

“Our women gave Wayne State everything they could handle, and the men coming away with four wins in the row, sending the seniors home with four rings—that was a pretty cool moment,” Boyce said.

Conference may have been tough, but Nationals will put the GVSU athletes to the test. However, one thing is for sure: They will compete together.

“We say we’re not a swimming team, a diving team, a men’s team or a women’s team—we’re a combined team that works all the way to the finish,” Boyce said. “We’re a family away from home for a lot of people, and it was evident this week.”

GVSU will be heading to the National Championships on Tuesday, March 13, in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Lakers are hoping to bring home the National Championship for the first time in school history.