Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships, Day Two

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota, February 17. A blend of youthful talented and experienced stars combined to deliver an unforgettable session at the 2012 MIAC Swimming and Diving Championships Friday night at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. A senior cemented his four-year dominance of an event, a trio of freshmen broke meet records and a swimmer became a two-time champion in two events while also helping a relay team set a meet record in an action-packed fourth session.
The team races have been just as good as the individual races in the pool. Gustavus – in search of a third-straight title – leads the women’s competition by just three points over St. Olaf after two days, 433-430. St. Thomas jumped from fifth into the top three with 334, Saint Benedict is fourth with 315 and Carleton rounds out the top five with 307. St. Catherine (179) sits in sixth, Macalester is seventh (168), Concordia is eighth (102), and Saint Mary’s (97), Augsburg (60)and Hamline (58) round out the rest of the women’s field.

On the men’s side, St. Thomas pulled into a slim lead after finishing the first day tied with defending champion St. Olaf. The Tommies are atop the standings at 489, while the Oles are 10 points back at 479. Gustavus moved into third at 392, Saint John’s is in fourth at 307 and Carleton also stuck in the top five at 281. Macalester (109), Saint Mary’s (90) and Hamline (74) stayed in the final three spots in the men’s team standings.

For all four years he’s worn a St. Thomas swim cap, senior Erik Huls has ruled the men’s 100-yard butterfly in the MIAC, culminating with his first-place finish Friday to complete a rare four-peat in the event. Huls finished with a time of 50.37, which met the NCAA ‘B’ qualifying standard, and he’ll also graduate as the event’s record holder via his time of 49.04 in 2009.

The Tommies also enjoyed one of the top women’s highlights of the evening as freshman swimmer Mariann Kuikelka set an all-time MIAC record, winning the 100-yard butterfly with a time of 57.07, which also met the ‘B’ standard. Kukielka also helped the Tommies’ 200-yard medley relay team finish first with an NCAA consideration time of 1:46.79. The second-place Gusties also met the ‘B’ cut with a time of 1:46.96 in the 200 medley relay.

St. Olaf freshman Michael Gratz also continued his remarkable showing in his first MIAC meet, winning another individual event, helping two more relays capture victory and setting a meet record in the process. The first-year phenom won the 200-yard freestyle title with a new MIAC Championships record of 1:39.71, which met the 2011 selection time. He also anchored the Oles’ first-place 200-yard medley relay team and helped the 800-yard medley relay team also claim victory with a 2011 Selection Time of 6:49.50. Gratz has now been a top the podium five times in two finals sessions, also winning Thursday’s 200-yard individual medley and helping the 400-yard medley relay team finish first.

Oles’ junior Meghan Weiss also added another first-place medal to her MIAC trophy case, winning the women’s 200-yard freestyle for the second-straight year with a time of 1:51.72, which met the 2011 Selection Time. This comes on the heels of the back-to-back titles in the 500-yard freestyle, which she won in Thursday night’s finals session. Weiss also anchored St. Olaf’s 800-yard freestyle relay team, which won with a 2011 Selection Time of 7:40.78, which is also a new MIAC Championships record.

Another Ole also became a two-time champ, as Colby Kubat also successfully defended his title in the men’s 100-yard breaststroke with a time of 55.95, which met the NCAA’s ‘A’ cut to qualify him for the national meet, and Kubat has also helped all three Oles’ relay teams win as well.

The Gustavus women also had a freshman make history, as first-year swimmer Jennifer Strom won the women’s 100-yard breaststroke with a new meet record time of 1:04.60, which also met the 2011 selection time. St. Thomas freshman Emily Punyko also broke the previous record with a time of 1:05.34, while defending champ Lindsey Lee of St. Olaf finished fourth with a time of 1:06.65. The Gusties added another individual win in the very next event, as sophomore Alissa Tinklenberg swam to victory with a 2011 Selection Time of 56.48.

In the 400-yard individual medley, Saint John’s Josh Seaburg won a close race to earn the men’s title and secure his second win of the meet. Seaburg, who also won Thursday’s 500-yard freestyle, met the 2011 Selection Time with his winning time of 4:02.11. The next two to touch the wall were both Oles, and Spencer Scarth (4:03.73) and Evan Griffith (4:05.59) both met the ‘B’ cut. The Johnnies got another win in the 100-yard backstroke, as freshman Logan Arnold beat a pair of St. Thomas juniors (Michael Hoelterhoff and Ethan Nimens) with a winning time of 51.89.

The women’s 400-IM title was claimed by St. Catherine’s Steffanie Jurusik, who steadily pulled away from the field and won with a ‘B’ cut time of 4:35.70. The women’s 3-meter diving title was claimed by St. Thomas’ Jennifer Easton, who won a close competition with Macalester’s Renee’ Jordan, 449.35 to 438.90. Both scores were good enough to meet the 2011 NCAA Selection Score.

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