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This past weekend was the last major weekend for duel meets in Division II swimming as most teams are getting their conference rosters finalized for the big show in a couple weeks as we hit February. We are about six weeks away from the NCAA Championships in Greensboro and we are just getting started with the warped up intensity.
A lot of teams had the weekend off as the competition was slim over the last full weekend of January. A lot of teams are gearing up for taper if they have not started already, so the competition load is lighter as we inch closer to February and we close out January.
Perhaps the biggest meet between Division II teams, #10 Saint Leo men and #5 Tampa women split a duel meet with each other as Saint Leo men defeated a ranked Tampa team that was 17th in the last poll.
Saint Leo has made huge strides as their men did not place in the top 25 at last year’s NCAA meet. They have made a huge jump thanks to the emergence of Matija Rafaj who transferred from NAIA Lindenwood (Belleville) in Illinois. He leads Division II in the 1000 so far and is a top eight potential in the 500 and the 1650.
The Tampa women have Hana Van Loock who leads Division II in the 100 free so far this year as the freshmen has made big strides with the Tampa women’s program that didn’t place in the top 25 at NCAA’s last year. Tampa’s sprint relays also place in the top eight with the 400 free relay at the highest right now in second in Division II. Their 800 free relay is fourth while their 200 is fifth.
In other action on the weekend, national title favorites Drury dropped both duels to Division I power Mizzou in an in-state matchup. Nova Southeastern easily swept Keiser on their senior day and Simon Fraser split with Seattle with Simon Fraser’s women and Seattle’s men coming up with wins.
Nova Southeastern women are another team that does not get talked about enough. They currently sit third in the polls behind Drury and Queens and often go unnoticed seemingly. Emma Sundstedt is one of the best girls in Division II swimming as she broke the NCAA record in the 1000 already this season (9:46.63). She also leads Division II in the 500 and the 1650. Courtney Deveny is the best 400 IM’er in the nation and sits third in the 200 IM and sixth in the 200 fly. Malin Westman is also fourth in the 100 breast and 12th in the 200.
They are also top five in all of their relay nationally as they lead Division II in the 400 free and are second in the 200 medley. The Sharks were fourth last year and will definitely be looking to improve upon that. They could sneak up on Drury or Queens without warning at NCAA’s.
#21 Emmanuel men also picked up wins over the weekend in the Emmanuel Invitational. They did not swim at NCAA’s last year as they have been an NAIA school the last few years. Their men find themselves in the top 25 duel meet rankings currently thanks to guys like Alex Sobers, Pedro Illescas and Thiago Rosa who all sit in the top eight in at least one event in Division II thus far this year. They will be a team to keep an eye on as they grow into their new role in Division II swimming.
Another national title favorite is the Queens men and they swam at the South Carolina Invite over the weekend where they pushed SEC South Carolina over the two day competition much like their rival Drury did to Mizzou. Queens fell short in the end though, just like Drury as well.
Queens did however win three of the four relays on the men’s side over South Carolina as the Gamecocks only defeated them in the 200 medley, where Marius Kusch notably split a 20.88 in the butterfly leg. The Queens women pushed South Carolina for all it was worth in the 200 free relay where they fell just short with a 1:33.80. They are currently second nationally in that event behind only Drury headed into conference season.
They have been impressed so far with freshman Hendrik Faber who has emerged as a national title contender in a couple distance events. Marius Kusch and Paul Pijulet continued to impress as the Royals are looking for a fourth straight NCAA title in six weeks.
#11 Fresno Pacific women also defeated #21 CSU East Bay in a ranked vs. ranked matchup.