Swim teams finish 5th and last in championship

Tom O'Connor, Swim Reporter

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Even before the Eastern men’s and women’s swimming teams arrived in Sioux Falls, their fate on the final standings had, to a certain degree, already been decided.

No matter how many points they could accrue in the Men’s 400-meter freestyle relay or the Women’s 200-meter fly, nothing could compensate for the lack of a diving team, a disadvantage Eastern must grapple with at each championship appearance.

The Eastern men’s and women’s teams finished fifth and sixth respectively at the Summit League Championships, coming away with a silver in the Men’s 800-yard Freestyle at a time of 3:01.91.

The placement of the teams in the final standings, for that matter, were invariable from last year’s, when the men finished fifth and the women sixth.

“I’m so impressed by what this team has accomplished,” said Eastern head coach Jacqueline Michalski. “From school records to top-10 times to lifetime best, the accomplishments this team has achieved is impressive.”

Eastern pulled out ahead of the Summit League pack in the Men’s 400-meter freestyle relay, in which freshman Griffin Lewis, freshman Forrest Baumgartner, senior Nick Harkins and sophomore Scott House took second, five milliseconds short of first-place South Dakota’s time.

With a time of 3:35.54, the Eastern Women’s Freestyle relay, composed of freshman Grace Kennedy, freshman Katy Black, sophomore Sarah Lohman and senior Martee Grainger, trailed fifth-place Western Illinois by just over a second to come in at sixth for the race.

Eastern profited off freshman Alex Adams, whose final time was only one second shy of fourth place, closing out the 200 Backstroke A-Finals in seventh.

Adams preserved a lead over Denver sophomore Nathan Rock for the first three legs of the race, but he could not maintain it over the duration of the final 50 meters, when his opponent gained 1.27 seconds on him to take sixth.

After capturing the men’s and women’s titles for five successive years, Denver added two championships to its arsenal of trophies and, with the sole exceptions of men’s and women’s diving, placed first in each event.

The Denver women’s team accumulated the highest point total in Summit League Championship history, with over 500 points more than the second-place team, South Dakota, in the final standings.

Senior Lauren Oostman broke the school record for both the 100-meter backstroke and the 200-meter individual medley during the regular season, while sophomore Ivan Escott unseated Tim Bird for first in the 100-meter butterfly in the regular season too.

But Michalski remains encouraged by a core of emerging swimmers in the freshman, sophomore and junior ranks, optimistic of their potential to enrich the program and build from where the seniors left off.

As far as the season is concerned, Michalski has held the season in high regard.

“We have a lot of talent that will develop and have a key role in helping make this a stronger program,” Michalski said.

Now that the championship results have been computed, and the awards conferred upon the medalists, senior Alex Laleian has begun to contemplate on his swimming career, from the rudimentary stages of swimming to the collegiate level.

“It’s been an 18-year-long journey with the last four being the hardest,” Laleian said. “Some goals were achieved and some were not, but that’s the way it goes. I’m still proud of what I was able to overcome and have no regrets.”

Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].