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Plunging towards the finish line

Swimming teams heading into down time with high hopes after placing well in Freeman, Goblirsch meets.

Courtesy of Hamline Athletic Department

Hamline swimmers compete in November’s Grace Goblirsch Invite, where the Pipers men’s team scored 484 points and placed second in the six-team field. The women’s team scored 120 points and placed fifth in the seven-team field.

Josh Dungan, Sports Editor

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Jean Freeman was the name synonymous with women’s swimming at the University of Minnesota for over 30 years. Having built the program from the ground up from when it first started in 1973, Freeman’s efforts were rewarded in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the U’s women’s swimming program won two Big Ten Championships.

What does Freeman have to do with Hamline swimming, you may ask?

Since 2013, the Pipers have competed in the Jean Freeman Invitational, a meet at the University of Minnesota that honors Freeman’s contributions to the sport. This is a meet that brings in dozens of schools, both from outside and inside the state, and ignores divisional labels to create one teeming mass of swimmers.

Hamline does not have the personnel to compete with the Division I or II teams that attended the meet, and generally has little success in larger meets such as this. Three swimmers changed that dynamic a little in this year’s Freeman Invitational.

Junior Ethan Ross had the best showing among the Piper swimmers. He placed 10th in a 33-person field in the 200-yard butterfly. Junior Hodd Gorman’s two 12th-place finishes in the 200- and 500-yard freestyles continued his strong performances in previous meets.

Over on the women’s side, Taylor Martinek was an ironwoman. She swam in seven races in the two-day meet, including the prelims and finals of the 100-yard backstroke, where she placed 14th. She also swam in the 200-yard medley, 400-yard medley relay, 200-freestyle relay and the 800-yard freestyle relay, helping the team place 32nd, 32nd, 25th, and ninth, respectively.

“Our season so far has been good,” said junior diver Savannah Robertson, who placed 35th in the one meter diving competition. “Overall, I think our team culture has improved drastically and we’ve been working a lot harder this year.”

The Pipers, like many teams in the MIAC, use Jean Freeman as one of their final tune-ups before the MIAC finale meet that takes place several weeks after students return from J-term.

The Pipers have been working on rebuilding their swimming program under fifth year coach Ryan Hawke; four years ago the women’s team had just nine members. Now the women’s team’s numbers are up and the men’s team’s numbers are down a little.

“We’ve had a lot of people start to come into their positions and start to get good at certain strokes,” senior Colton Plumber said. “We’re really starting to push our limits.”

When competing in larger meets like the Jean Freeman Invitational, Hamline is often competing against students from DI and II schools, but they don’t let that get them down.

“[Jean Freeman] is to see where we are, because teams like St. Thomas and the U of M have eighty swimmers that are basically going to conquer every event,” Plumber said. “It’s not really up to us to get a lot of points, but it’s about seeing where we are in our training and what we need to get better at.”

Unlike the other late fall or winter sports, swimming takes an extensive break between meets.

With the Jean Freeman Invitational in the books, the Pipers don’t have another competition scheduled until the middle of January.

“After winter break, we’re heading down to Arizona to train,” Plumber said. “There are still some meets and practices in J-term [before the MIAC Championships] and we’re going to keep doing what we do.”

The Pipers still have plenty of work to do if they hope to challenge St. Thomas’ hold over both the men and women’s championships, but they feel that there is a lot of things they can do to improve before the MIAC Championships in early February.

“I think we definitely have a few records that can be taken off the boards over the next year or two,” Robertson said.

The Pipers did manage to exceed their personal expectations in one or two regards.

“Top 16 is something that we always strive for, especially in a meet like [Jean Freeman],” Robertson said. “We’ve had a lot of season bests and career bests already this season, and we’re just looking to keep lowering our times.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams return to action for home meets on Jan. 13, with the men welcome St. John’s and the women tangle with St. Benedict’s. Both meets begin at 1:00 p.m.

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The student news site of Hamline University.
Plunging towards the finish line