By David Kim
It doesn’t matter that he had just broken many school and conference records and made several NCAA A and B cuts. Michael Brus ’14 knew he could not and should not scream and celebrate immediately after it was announced that both the men and women’s swimming and diving teams won this year’s Conference championships, the 12th consecutive Conference championship for the men and 14 of the last 15 championships for the women.
“I’m always very conscious that we have good sportsmanship,” he said. “When it comes time to celebrate, jump in the pool, and throw the coaches in the water, it was so much fun. You’re celebrating with 50-plus of your best friends.”
And who can blame him?
With yet another dominating performance put up by Brus, he clinched his third Swimmer of the Year award, wowing spectators repeatedly last weekend with his fast times.
The Conference meet took place this past weekend in the Russell K. Osgood Pool on Grinnell’s campus. Brus set a NCAA Division III record in the 200 backstroke with a time of 1:45.94, beating the previous record of 1:46.01.
“Making the A cut was my goal, but another goal I had in the back of my head for the entire season was the national record for DIII,” Brus said. “It felt like it was a good race, and at Nationals I plan to go faster. I also don’t want to overshadow the fact that me, Ben Weideman [’15], Alex Lundy [’16] and Sam Ross [’16] all were in the final heat. There’s nobody else I’d rather be standing up with than those three guys. I was very proud to have three other Grinnellians up there with me.”
Brus currently has the fastest time in Division III in both the 100 and the 200 back.
Another A cut for Brus came in the 100 backstroke in a medley relay, where he swam the first leg in a time of 49.01, also breaking the school and conference record. His B cuts came from 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 medley relay, 400 medley relay, with times of 1:39.47, 4:30.72, 1:39.47 and 3:24.68, respectively.
His 200 medley relay partners were Beck Ringdahl-Mayland ’13, Manu Spooner ’13 and Gus Fulgoni ’15, while his 400 medley relay partners were Dylan Gray ’14, Spooner and Kevin Bennett ’16.
“The team has gotten progressively faster my four years here and it mostly has to do with Michael,” Ringdahl-Mayland said. “People are inspired by him and he brings energy to practice. With the national record, he’s in a league of his own right now.”
Brus was joined by Jerry Brown ’14, Joe Lytle ’14 and Bennett to break the school and conference record in the 400 freestyle relay with a time of 3:06.74, beating the previous mark of 3:07.03 set last year.
Brus, along with Thomas Robinson ’16, Bennett and Lytle, set the school and meet record in the 800 freestyle with a time of 6:54.11, besting the previous record of 6:55.97. The 400 freestyle relay, which was the last event of the meet, was especially exciting as the Pioneers were behind by more than three seconds at one point but came back to win.
“That was the most insane thing I have ever seen,” said Hayley Levin ’16, referring to the 400 freestyle relay event. “They were getting beat by a lot, and then [Brus] dove in. I didn’t think it was possible for him to catch up because 100 is a really short race. But he swam out of his mind and out-touched the opponent at the end.”
Other swimmers besides Brus joined in on record-breaking performances as well. Ringdahl-Mayland, despite suffering from bronchitis, still managed to finish second in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.72. His time beat the previous school record of 57.85 and was also fast enough to make the NCAA B cut.
“The biggest regret I have is that I was sick during the meet,” he said. “I was able to get a B cut in the breaststroke, which was something I wanted to do in a long time, but knowing that I could’ve gotten potentially faster, that’s going to haunt me for a while.”
Spooner also broke a 21-year-old school record in the 100-yard butterfly. He came in second place with a time of 51.34. The previous record was held by Dave Ressner in 1992.
“You see the big record board everyday. When I was a first year, I thought the time for 100 fly was just too fast,” Spooner said. “It was actually Dave Ressner who inspired me to swim as fast as I could and work as hard as I could and I’m excited to see my name up there. It was great to go out this way.”
Daniel Goldstein ’16 qualified in both one-meter and three meter diving to go to NCAA Regional Championships with scores of 498.25 and 509.25, respectively. His one-meter dive was good enough to break the previous school record of 469.50.
Fulgoni and Weideman also tasted victories last weekend, winning the 50 freestyle (21.44) and 100 backstroke (53.26), respectively.
Other notable record times on the men’s side include: Fulgoni, Brown, Austin Cote ’15 and Lytle’s runner-up finish in 200 freestyle relay (1:25.46), Lytle’s second place in 200 individual medley (1:57.10), Gray’s second place finish in the 200 breaststroke (2:07.53) and third-place finish in the 400 individual medley (4:14.89), Weideman’s runner-up behind Brus in 200-yard backstroke (1:56.79) and Tim Sherwood’s [’16] third place in the 1650 freestyle (16:58.41).
If the men’s side has Brus to lead the team, the women’s has Levin, who was awarded the MWC Women’s Swimmer of the Year. In her first Conference tournament, she recorded three B cuts, while breaking several school and conference records, to lead the underdog Ducks to a thrilling comeback victory.
She established an NCAA B cut while setting school and meet records by winning the 400 individual medley. Her time of 4:27.66 beat the previous mark of Becky Shaak of Lake Forest, and shattered the school record of 4:32.79 set by Imelda Wistey in 2011.
“400 IM was really close between me and Becky,” Levin said. “[Becky]’s a senior and it was almost an honor to race with the record-holder for 400 IM.”
Levin made two other NCAA B cuts by winning the 200 individual medley (2:06.75), breaking the school record of 2:10.08 and conference record of 2:08.21, and the 200 breaststroke (2:21.49), easily beating the B cut standard of 2:24.39. She also joined Sara Hannemann ’14, Danielle Phillips ’15 and Beth Gillig ’15 to win the 200 medley relay with a time of 1:49.50.
Levin was also teamed with Dana Sherry ’16, Maddy Pesch ’16 and Gillig to come in second in the 400 medley relay with a time of 3:58.48, beating the school and conference record. Levin joined Gillig, Carrie Sibbald ’15 and Josie Bircher ’16 to place second in the 400 freestyle relay, beating the school record of 3:37.03. The same quartet was also runner-up in the 800 freestyle relay with a time of 7:48.30, faster than both the previous school and conference record. In the 800 freestyle relay, Levin’s split time of 1:54.75 topped the school record in the 200 freestyle of 1:57.87.
“I set really high goals in the beginning of the season, not knowing how it was going to turn out because it is only my first year,” Levin said. “I didn’t know how I was going to go at the end of the year. I definitely was not expecting to go that fast [heading into the meet]. And I’m really happy that I got to achieve all these different things.”
Emma Falley ’15 and Allison Miller ’13 established NCAA Regional Championships marks in the one-meter dive with a score of 423.85 and 400.45, respectively. Falley also qualified in the three-meter dive with a score of 426.95.
“I was very happy to find out that both Emma and Allison also made the cuts to go to the [NCAA Regional Championships] for diving,” said Daniel Goldstein ’16. “Everyone was excited for me and I was also excited for everyone else who broke records.”
Hannemann joined the record-breaking performance party by beating the previous school record of 1:01.15 in the 100 backstroke. Pesch also recorded a victory in the 100 breaststroke, clocking 1:08.07.
Other notable places and times for the women include: team of Sherry, Hannemann, Sibbald and Callie Eyman Casey’s [’14] runner-up finish in the 200 freestyle relay (1:40.82), Bircher’s second place in the 200 individual medley (2:13.95) and third place in the 400 individual medley (4:45.29), Gillig’s third place finish in the 100 freestyle (54.17), Hannemann’s third place finish in the 200 backstroke, Madeline Gray’s [’16] second place finish in the 200 butterfly (2:14.84), Jalyn Marks’ [’16] runner-up in the 200 butterfly (2:15.60), Pesch’s runner-up finish in 200 breaststroke (2:29.32) and third place in the 200 individual medley (2:15.10) and Phillips’s third place finish in the 100 breaststroke (1:08.41).
A team effort was crucial in achieving the upset victory to regain the MWC team title.
“The reason why we won is because we were doing best times all over the place,” Gillig said. “Everyone did [so] phenomenal that you can’t list everything. We didn’t always get first place, but people who come third, fourth, fifth, sixth place, they still get points for that. Those people stepping up and doing their best allowed us to win.”
Swimmers believe the Conference titles on both sides are a testament to team unity and great coaching.
“Even though we’re a separate men and women’s team, we practice at the same time, compete in the same meet, and travel together,” Brus said. “I found myself looking at the women’s score frequently because I was more nervous for them. I think the time we spend together [helps us in] taking advantage of team-bonding opportunities.”
“A lot of it comes back to Coach Hurley,” Ringdahl-Mayland said. “People come to Grinnell to be with her. She brings out the best in all the athletes.”
Head coach Erin Hurley was named the conference Men’s Coach of the year for the third consecutive year and fifth time in her coaching career.
Spooner also noted how he proud he was, especially of the first-year swimmers.
“They really rose to challenge,” he said. “It might be hard coming from high school, not knowing the system and not used to the pool, but they showed everyone what they’re capable of and made me confident that, as a senior leaving, the team is in good hands.”
Although Nationals qualifiers like Brus have continued to practice, the season is over for many swimmers. This year’s Conference championship meet was a brilliant showcase that proved, with great coaching and talented young athletes, that the Pioneers’ swimming program will continue to dominate the MWC in the future.