CLEVELAND, Ohio, February 2. IN a day of exciting finishes and top times, Cleveland State finished the regular season undefeated in home dual meets (11-4 overall, 10-0 at home) with a win against UIC, 146-92. Seniors Dave Duecker and Dan Baiko led the way, combining to win five individual events.
"It was a great meet for our seniors," head coach Wally Morton said, of the team's Senior Day victory, "We now go into our championship meet with the idea that we will compete to win a championship."
In all, the Vikings won 10 of the meet's 11 events. Dave Duecker led the team with three individual victories. He won the 1,000 free with a personal best time of 9:43.41, a seven second improvement over his previous best. He followed that up with a win in the 200 butterfly (1:51.85), with a time only two-tenths of a second from setting a personal best in that event.
Duecker won the 1,000 easily, about 12 seconds faster than the first place finisher, while he finished four seconds faster than the second place swimmer in the 200 fly.
Since he swam so well in those two swims, it surely would have been understandable if he was a bit tired for his 500 freestyle race. However, whatever fatigue Duecker was experiencing was overcome by the senior's will to win, and he turned in a dramatic come from behind victory in the 500 freestyle (4:43.81). His win in the 500 free was only four-hundreths of a second faster than the second place finisher.
"Dave was the star," Morton said, "In an exhausted state, he took his 500 race right down to the wire to touch out a quality opponent. He had a great last meet, and will swim great at the championship meet."
In the diving events, it was Dan Baiko who led the team. He had his best ever performance in the three-meter (347.20), to go with a steady showing in the one-meter (277.80). He won both events for the seventh time this season against UIC's Tristan Oleynik, who was last week's Horizon League diver of the week.
"Danny had his best day today, even better than he dove at Ohio State even though the score was higher from that meet," diving coach Rich Karban said, "He had his most consistent scoring day per dive for his career."
Sophomores Jakub Dobies and Stephen Grove also each had a hand in three victories.
Dobies won the 200 (1:42.57) and 100 (45.55) freestyle, and anchored the winning 400 freestyle relay. That relay team also included Mike Marsico, Marko Milenkovic and Grove, and was trailing UIC's relay team by two seconds when Dobies took to the water for the final leg of the race.
Dobies dove in and charged ahead, gaining on his opponent the entire way. UIC's anchor made a bad flip-turn on the final 25 yards, which allowed Dobies to pass him and lead the team to victory in the event with a time of 3:07.58.
Meanwhile, Grove won the 50 free (21.36), and also swam on the winning 400 medley (Todd Winchell, Deni Gasparin, Nedim Nisic, and Grove, 3:27.56) and freestyle relay teams.
Zvonimir Androic (200 back, 1:52.63) also won an event for the Vikings, while freshman Deni Gasparin finished a close second in the 200 IM with a time of 1:56.29. Gasparin also improved upon his best time in the 200 breaststroke by four seconds (2:04.29) while swimming in exhibition for the event.
The day's meet was set aside as Senior Day, and Coach Morton was pleased with how his seniors competed. Another senior winning an event was Stef Potgieter, who took the title with a personal best time of 2:05.23 in the 200 breaststroke. He also set a personal best in the 200 yard IM (1:56.49)
"Stef did a great job for us in the breaststroke and IM with two lifetime bests," Coach Morton said, "He will swim outstanding at the championship meet."
Seniors Taylor Dopuch and Johan Norling also swam personal best times in their events. Norling swam a personal best in the 50 free (21.46) as he finished third. Dopuch may not have finished high in the 1,000 free with a sixth place finish, but he did improve his personal best time by 12 seconds as he finished the race in 10:30.10.
"We must work on our race pace and rest up," Morton said, "If we have a good attitude at the championship meet we will succeed."
The women of Cleveland State lost to UIC, 141-83, and lost a by a close score of 117-108 to Youngstown State. Several top times were posted by Viking swimmers throughout the afternoon despite the overall losses.
Cleveland State drops to 4-10 (0-5 HL), while UIC improves to 5-6 (3-3 HL) and Youngstown State improves to 4-7 (2-2 HL).
"I am really proud of our women, especially our seniors. Deanna Raedel, Lesley Jones, Trisha Simon, and Alex Bagi all have had wonderful performances today and in their careers and go out winners," head coach Wally Morton said.
The Vikings were led on the Senior Day meet by a junior. Katie Bellew scored two of the meet's most exciting victories. Her win in the 200 butterfly (2:12.61, a personal best) came with a burst of energy in the last 50 yards as she touched out UIC's Kathryn McLeyland by only seven tenths of a second.
Her win in the 200 breaststroke was even more of a nail-biter, as her personal best time of 2:28.58 was less than two tenths of a second faster than UIC's Beth Paglini.
Senior Lesley Jones also swam very well on the afternoon, scoring second place finishes in the 50 free (24.66) and 100 free (53.97). Both times were tenths of a second from her season bests in each event.
Jones and fellow senior Deanna Raedel joined Katie Bellew and Sandra Bunker to score a second place finish in the 400 medley relay (4:09.49). Raedel was also a part of a second place finish in the 400 freestyle relay (3:45.01). Senior Alex Bagi as well as juniors Kristina Nagy and Kristine Bunker were also on the 400 free relay team.
UIC had an insurmountable lead for the entire afternoon as the Flames defeated CSU. Despite that fact, the Vikings' head-to-head matchup with Youngstown State was very close throughout the day, and came right down to the final event, the 400 free relay. The Penguin's win in that event secured their victory over the Vikings.
"Our women are very competitive and fit. Even though we lost, we went right down to the end of the meet with a chance to win. This makes me very confident that we will do very well at the Horizon Championship," Morton said.
Frances Carrion was another top finisher for the Vikings as she placed third in the 500 freestyle (5:24.92). Kristine Bunker also scored a third place finish, in the 200 free (1:59.93).
Special thanks to Cleveland State for contributing this report.