Jacks meet Michael Phelps, dominate USD

The new year has barely begun, but the SDSU swimming and diving teams have already had the opportunity to meet Michael Phelps, see a HPER Center pool record fall, and secure trips to the Zone D Championships for two of their divers. 

While the majority of SDSU’s students were enjoying their break, the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams traveled to Florida on Jan. 2 for a week of intense training, including St. Pete’s Classic in which they won 11 events. While training there, they had the unique opportunity to share the pool with several of swimming’s elites, including the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps. 

“I think it was a big treat for the athletes,” head coach Brad Erickson said. “It’s not very many people that get to bump into him and get some photo ops with him, and several other Olympians as well. We had Conor Dwyer and Allison Schmitt. They’re both Olympic medalists.”

The athletes were training with Bob Bowman, the famous coach of Michael Phelps who currently heads the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

“He was down there just training an elite few athletes,” Erickson said. “We’re on one half of the pool and they’re on the other half of the pool. We’re training along with the best in the world. It was a thrill for the athletes. It was fun for the coaches to watch that as well.”

Even a week after the fact the athletes still bubbled with excitement at the memory of the climatic ending to their trip.

“It was a great end to our trip,” senior Andee Budahl said. “It was just after our last practice and a few of our teammates saw him walking and it kind of just gave us a good attitude going out of the trip and being able to carry that over.”

Having the opportunity to see and train alongside Olympians also helped the SDSU swimmers to see a goal, a possible end result to all the hard training they endured during the trip. 

 “It’s always very exciting to swim and train with them, just kind of knowing like that we’re not alone here,” senior Devonne Dalin said. “This hard work really does pay off. It’s always really cool to see like some names, or some big names I guess should say.”

Following a difficult week of training and the excitement of training alongside some of swimming’s best, it was difficult to know what to expect out of the teams as they returned home to host the University of South Dakota at the HPER Center on Saturday, Jan. 11. What the day brought was mostly pleasant surprises. 

The Jacks raced out to an early lead and never looked back as the men won 177-118 and the women won 186-107 over a USD team that was picked in the preseason poll to finish only one spot behind them.

“When you come off a training trip you don’t really know what to expect because we worked the heck out of them,” Erickson said. “I think it’s a tribute to each individual as how they responded today … we swam a little bit better than we expected. I think that gives us good momentum going forward that we can build off this meet and starting dropping times between now and the end of the season.”

The men won 11 of their 16 events. Senior diver Clark Kocourek set a new pool record, scoring 333.32 in the men’s three-meter dive. His score also earned him a spot in Zones. By qualifying, he will have the opportunity to participate in all diving events, not just the three meter. 

 “I had no idea it [breaking the record] was going to come today because we just got off a training trip, “ Kocourek said. “You don’t really expect much when you first come back, so seeing me take down the record today was pretty awesome.”

Joining Kocourek at Zones will be junior diver Connor Florand, who finished above the qualifying mark and less than a point below Kocourek, in the one-meter dive with a final score of 306.30.

“It felt great,” Florand said. “I actually didn’t think I really had much of a chance. I messed up one of my dives but my teammate, Clark, managed to get my head straight and I put that last dive and I finally qualified.”

Aiding Florand in his bid for a Zone qualifying score has been all his hard work in practice. Saturday’s meet featured a brand new dive for him, one that he likely would not have made Zones without.

“I actually threw a front three and a half,” Florand said. “It was the first time I ever competed it today and it actually helped me pull through to get my qualifying score so I was really excited about that.”

Since Kocourek and Florand were able to secure their places early in the year, they will be able to spend the coming meets facing a little less pressure and having a little more room for trial and error. 

 “It really takes a huge load off, so now instead of going into each meet having that tension we can go into each meet and have fun instead of trying to get the scores. And it also leaves some room for us to add new dives into our list because if you don’t have the score, you have to do your dives, but now that we got the score we can start playing around with new dives.”

Also scoring individual victories for the men were Matthew Carpenter, 1000-yard Freestyle, Geoffrey Longhurst, 200-yard Freestyle, Alex McClain 100-yard Backstroke, Wil Hogue 50-yard Freestyle, Ben Bolinske, 100-yard Freestyle, Daniel Jacobson, 200-yard Backstroke, and Blake Yeager, 500-yard Freestyle. The men also took home victories in the 200-yard Medley Relay and the 400-yard Freestyle Relay. 

The women proved even more dominant, winning 14 of 16 events including the first 12 events of the meet. Individual winners were Budahl 1000-yard Freestyle and 500-yard Freestyle, Nicole Grimit 200 -yard Freestyle, Sam Prasher, 100-yard Backstroke, Emily Campbell 100-yard Breaststroke, 200-yard Breaststroke and 200-yard individual medley, Trina Young 200-yard Butterfly, Dalin 50-yard Freestyle and 100-yard Freestyle, Olivia Olesiak three-meter diving and Elizabeth Buckholz, 200-yard Backstroke. The 200-yard Medley Relay and the 400-yard Freestyle also went SDSU’s way.

“From the very beginning we took first, second, third in the relay and that kind of set the pace for the rest of the meet,” Budahl said. “We were all very motivated and it’s something we always want to do – give our best and beat our opponents.”

The Jacks will next travel to St. Cloud State on Jan. 18 before returning home to host the University of North Dakota on Feb. 1.