by Garrett Simpson
ATHENS, Ga. – Both the Gardner-Webb men's and women's swim teams improved on their 2016 finishes Saturday night, wrapping up the 2017 CCSA Championships in fine fashion.
The women's team moved from fourth place in 2016 to third in 2017 with 851 points. The men jumped two spots from 2016's fourth-place finish to a second-place finish in 2017 with 1,216.5 points. Each team triumphed in close battles on the last day, as the women came from behind to pass Georgia Southern University and the men broke a tie with the University of the Incarnate Word.
The first event of the evening was the championship final of the men's 1,650 yard freestyle. Distance specialists Peter Wakeley and Brandon Chason both put forth strong efforts for the 'Dogs, finishing in the top eight. Wakeley led the way with a bronze-medal worthy performance, swimming a 15:51.59, while Chason ended up in seventh place with a time of 15:58.55.
The ladies' distance squad of Lauren Oglesby, Morgan VanderSchaaf, and Miranda Johns kept the momentum going for GWU in the women's race on the heels of a podium finish. Oglesby found the podium for the third time in three years, finishing second in 16:50.80. VanderSchaaf swam a lifetime best for the Bulldogs to finish seventh in 17:13.20, followed by Johns in 15th with a 17:43.92.
In the men's 200 backstroke, John Baker had a strong showing in the championship final, while Chris Raymond, Jason Smith, and Joshua Clarke swam solid races in the B final. Baker ended up fifth overall in the event, touching in a 1:47.85, narrowly missing the school record. Raymond touched first place in the 'B' final, leading from start-to-finish and touching in a 1:49.68. Smith followed closely behind in second with a 1:50.86, while Clarke was fourth in the heat, touching in 1:51.70.
Freshman Lara Siebrecht re-broke her school record in the women's less than 7 hours after she first broke it. Siebrecht finished fifth overall in the event with a 2:00.59. In the 'B' final, Spencer Lucas took third in 2:02.55, while Hope Saunders was second in the 'C' final with a 2:05.76.
Connor Bos finished off his individual career as a Runnin' Bulldog with his third podium finish in three swims in the men's 100 freestyle. Bos swam a 44.78, which was good enough to tie for third. In the 'B' final, Zach Dingfield was the top finisher for the Bulldogs in second with a 45.20, followed by Andrew Linzie in fourth at 45.70 and Hal McKay in fifth at 45.77. Cameron Pou led the effort in the 'C' final, grabbing a third-place finish in 46.31, while teammate Jake Ennis was just one spot behind in 46.68.
In the women's 100 freestyle, Kelsey Williams was the top finisher for the 'Dogs. Williams touched 16th in 51.69, while Alina Gersib and Mackenzie Ropka touched 19th and 20th overall in 52.37 and 52.93 respectively.
Freshman Jordan Mintz had an historic performance for the Runnin' Bulldogs in the men's 200 breaststroke. Mintz became the first 'Dog to break the two-minute barrier in the event, finishing in 1:58.82 and claiming the conference title. He was followed by fellow-freshman Elliot Gayken in fourth place with a 2:01.33, which would have been a school record prior to the weekend. Josh Hanson had a crucial victory for the Bulldogs in the 'B' final, as he chased down multiple swimmers in the second half of the race to finish in 2:03.96.
The women's breaststroke duo of Whitney Peters and Anna Banick had another strong performance in the 200 breaststroke. Peters finished in sixth place in 2:20.24, while Banick took the victory in the 'B' final and ninth overall in 2:20.30.
The men's 200 butterfly turned out to be one of many crucial events of the evening in the race for second-place overall. Andrew Knudsen had a massive victory in 'B' final with a 1:50.12. He fought off second-half charges from multiple swimmers to secure important points for GWU, while teammates Mason Hutchinson and Tyler Gomez finished in 1:53.28 (sixth) and 1:53.67 (seventh) respectively.
Another milestone was broken on the women's side of the meet for the 'Dogs. Tessa Walsh became the first woman in GWU history to break 2:02.00 in the 200 butterfly as she touched in 2:01.12. That school record time earned her a place on the podium as she finished in third place. London Schumacher was seventh place in 2:05.05. In the 'C' final, Adel Kiss touched first in the final race of her college career in 2:06.24, followed by teammate Kate Arceneaux in 2:13.26.
The final event of the night on the men's side was a true nail-biter. The men's 400 freestyle relay ended up being the determinant factor of which school would take second place overall in the meet between GWU and University of the Incarnate Word. The Bulldog's team of Bos, Linzie, Dingfield, and McKay left no doubt in the end as they touched in second place with a time of 2:59.18, over 1.5 seconds ahead of the Cardinals.
The women's 400 free relay team swam a time fast enough to finish in third place, but were disqualified.
Men's Final Scores:
1. UMBC- 1,522
2. GWU- 1,216.5
3. UIW- 1,207
4. FAU- 1,093
5. ODU- 1,038.5
6. NJIT- 517
7. Howard- 376
8. VMI- 277
Women's Final Scores:
1. FGCU- 1,574.5
2. LIB - 1,355
3. GWU- 851
4. GSU- 818.5
5. UIW- 770.5
6. Campbell- 695.5
7. UNCA- 639
8. UNF- 405
9. Howard- 245
10. VMI- 114