GVSU eyes GLIAC crown

GVL/Bo Anderson

Sarah Rapisarda competes in the 100m freestyle.

GVL/Bo Anderson Sarah Rapisarda competes in the 100m freestyle.

Jay Bushen

The Lakers have a score to settle with their rivals from Wayne State University.

As the Grand Valley State University swimming and diving teams gear up for the GLIAC Championships, they recall what it felt like to place second in each of the past two seasons.

“We’ll never forget that feeling,” said GVSU junior Erik Aakesson. “But this season we have the energy and the anger that it takes to end up on top. It just adds fuel to our fire.”

The No. 15 Lakers received even more bulletin board material this week, when the team dropped three spots in the NCAA rankings despite three recent victories over ranked opponents. In the month of January, the team has defeated No. 8 University of Indianapolis, No. 11 Wayne State and No. 13 Nova Southeastern University.

GVSU won each meet by 30 points or more.

“We are a very confident team,” Aakesson said. “We’re all swimming for each other right now.”

The team has looked unstoppable since the arrival of freshman sensation Gianni Ferrero (Idstein, Germany) in late December. Ferrero won ten individual events in the month of January, breaking multiple GVSU school records in the process.

Head coach Andy Boyce said a turning point this season was the team’s six-day training session in Miami, Fla. The Lakers, who also defeated the University of Findlay by 206 points on Jan. 12, have not lost a meet since.

“The big thing is our training,” Boyce said. “We’ve been phenomenal in practice and have worked hard all year. This is our reward.”

On the women’s side, a familiar foe is once again the topic of conversation.

The No. 12 Lakers will hope to prevent Wayne State from winning their seventh title in eight seasons. Last year, the Warriors won both the GLIAC and NCAA Division II championships.

“Going against that kind of competition takes us to a higher level,” said sophomore Olivia Schultz. “It can only make us better. We have high hopes.”

The team will rely heavily on junior captain Caitlyn Madsen, who has been a big reason for the team’s success this season.

Madsen currently holds three individual school records (100 and 200 fly, 200 backstroke) and has swam a leg on a pair of record-breaking relay teams (400 medley and 800 free).

Nerves may be a factor for the young Laker squads, but Boyce said he expects his teams to perform at the highest level.

“It’s always good to have a little nervous tension,” Boyce said. “Controlling those nerves is key. We’ll go out there, post some fast times and hopefully qualify for nationals. It’s what we train for all year.”

Both GVSU teams will head for Canton, Ohio Wednesday to compete in the GLIAC Championships, which will be from Feb. 6-9.

The NCAA Division II National Championships will be in Birmingham, Ala. from Mar. 6-9.
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