GV swimming and diving impresses at DII tournament

GVL Archive / Kim Miller
Carly Bush pulls ahead during the womens 200 yard butterfly. Bush was recently named the GLIAC and CollegeSwimming.com National Swimmer of the Week, along with teammate Jordan Schrotenboer.

GVL Archive / Kim Miller Carly Bush pulls ahead during the women’s 200 yard butterfly. Bush was recently named the GLIAC and CollegeSwimming.com National Swimmer of the Week, along with teammate Jordan Schrotenboer.

Holly Bihlman, Staff Writer

After a long and exciting weekend in Birmingham, Alabama, both the Grand Valley State University men’s and women’s swim and dive teams came out with a top ten placement in the tournament. The women earned the highest finish in school history tied to the best fifth place finish.

Some severe weather on Wednesday, March 17 forced some of the day one preliminaries to be pushed back to Thursday morning. However, the Lakers didn’t let that stop them from having some successful races through Saturday, March 20

“It’s just that much more meaningful to have a championship and be able to participate in a championship like this,” said coach Andy Boyce. “We’re so grateful that we were able to do the things we did this year and to have such a positive outcome at the end, walking away with our heads held high with one of the most solid performances we’ve ever had at the national championships.”

An especially stellar performance came from sophomore Gracyn Segard as she won her two National Championship titles in the 1-meter and the 3-meter as the first GVSU diver to sweep both in one year. Her 1-meter dive received a score of 448.35 alongside Allyson Schafer and Nicole Taormina in third and fourth. Segard’s 3-meter was given a score of 487.15, starting in second place but ending with an inward 1.5 pike to steal first. 

“I wasn’t really expecting it, I was really just hoping to do well,” Segard said. “That was kind of my goal, but I just went out there and tried to do the best that I could and ended up where I did.” 

By the end of day two on Thursday, the women were sitting in eighth place with a score of 111 points where four of the Lakers took home All-America honors in the 1-meter including Segard, Schafer, Taormina and Nicole Carlson. Another All-America honors on the women’s side was Neta Shiff’s 1,000-free and 400IM, finishing in seventh in the first and sixteenth in the second, earning her a pair of honors as well. The Lakers had the most divers of any team at the championships, giving them an advantage for points as well. 

On the men’s side, some notable All-America finishes included freshman Eric Hieber in his first swim at the NCAA National Championships for fifth place in the 1,000-free. Senior Oscar Saura-Armengol earned honors in his 100-fly race where he took eighth. The men’s 200-medley relay also earned an All-America honors with a time of 1:29:30 in tenth, won by Roger Miret Sala, Keegan Hawkins, Saura-Armengol and Hieber. 

On day three of four, the women climbed up to fifth with 203 points, and the men moved up to eighth with 147. Both teams swam the 800-free relay as the women placing seventh with a time of 7:29:70 and the men coming in at third with 6:30:09 for the All-America honors. The relay races count for double the number of points that a regular race would, so these were some of the bigger wins for GVSU. 

On top of the numerous All-America honors, two school records were broken over the weekend – one of them by Eric Hieber in the mile and the other by Melinda De Court in the 100 and 200-meter backstroke.

At the end of every day of the championships, the top eight divers get to return to compete at night along with the top sixteen swimmers. The Lakers were continuously reaching the evening races throughout the weekend. 

The Lakers ended day four with an overall score of 250 points at an overall best fifth place finish for the women, and 210 points for the men. The winner of this year’s NCAA National Championship was Queens University clocking in 695 points for the women and 551 for the men. 

“I think we just wanted to go out there and have fun as a team,” Segard said. “Our team did a really good job of keeping each other hype the whole time, making sure we were motivated and cheering each other on, and I think that’s what’s important at the end of the day.”

With some of the sophomores having missed out on their first year at the tournament due to COVID-19 and with a lot of freshman on the team this year, they had to navigate through a year of training and practices with little opportunity to swim in pools. Despite the lack of an audience this year and a lot of swimmers and divers that had never been to the DII championships, the Lakers pulled it off with some great scores to take home and another top ten finish in the books. 

“I think there was a little bit of nervous tension the first day or two, but we do have a younger team,” Boyce said. “It was tricky; it was a hard year. Our team really came together, they pulled together throughout the entire year, they rose to the challenges that they faced, and I think it was tough on everybody.”

Now that the championships are over, the athletes have a mandatory two-week rest period before they can get back into the swing of practices and pool time. After a weekend of record-breaking races and top eight performances, the Lakers are traveling back to GVSU to enjoy some time out of the water, looking forward to next year’s improvements and experiences.