Little Giants Fight Off Adversity on Opening Night
Howard W. Hewitt - Canton, Ohio - A close disqualification in the opening event, the 200 freestyle relay, of the NCAC swim finals stung the Wabash College swim team Thursday night. But three freshmen and a sophomore hit the pool in the 500 free to turn emotions and momentum back around for Wabash.
The evening appeared to be off to a great start with the 200 free relay team recording a third-place finish behind perennial powers Kenyon and Denison. But after the event, the Wabash swimmers learned they were disqualified for an early start and lost 54 points in the process.
But the turn-around came quickly and started with Paul Wilson '10. The freshman lifted emotions by winning the first heat of the 500 free and doing it with a personal best time. But the best was yet to come. Sophomore Brent Graham had the slowest time in the next heat. He had swum a 4:56.60 in the morning preliminaries. Graham went out on a fast pace and didn't slow. He recorded a rather remarkable 4:42.15 which gave him second-place in the heat, but more importantly was a new Wabash College school record.
Graham's time bested the 1980 effort of John Murphy at 4:45.15. Murphy's time came in the NCAA Championships. Freshmen Elijah Sanders and Craig Vetor also swam personal bests. Sander's time of 4:43.88 also bested the old school record, but not the new one.
The roller coaster beginning was complete after the first two events.
"One thing I’ve always known about Wabash is that we’re a school that likes to take risks and go after it," Coach Peter Casares said. "It seemed to backfire a little bit on that 200 free relay but I don’t think the guys would have done it any different. If they had a chance to do it again, they'd push it and go fast.
"The team was a little bit upset about that then we went†into the 500 free and to see†all four of our guys drop time and go lifetime bests and culminate that with a school record really picked the whole entire team up again."
Wabash had only one representative in the 200 yard individual medley. Freshman Robert Dent finished 13th.
Wabash had seven swimmers score in the three heats of the 50 freestyle. Senior Kyle Weaver qualified in the top eight but wasn't feeling well during the finals. After turning in a :21.46 in the morning round he struggled to a :22 in the finals for eighth.
The night's final event was the 400 medley relay and more good news for the Little Giants. The team of Tony Caldwell, Robert Dent, Adam Petro, and Weaver claimed third place and just beat the "B" qualifying time for Nationals. The "B" time means they go into a pool of alternates which could be selected for competition in Houston, Texas. An "A" cut time is an automatic berth. Not only did the team qualify, but Caldwell's swim earned him "B" cut in the 100 backstroke at :52.65.
So an up-and-down type of night left the Little Giants more positive than down from the slow start.
"It says a ton about the team to be in last place after the first relay and then before the last relay hits we’re back in third," Casares said. "They’re okay taking risks, they’ve never gone fast going out slow.So being back in third place when the day is over says a lot about our depth, our vision and our guts and determination."
Kenyon held a slim lead over Denison in the mens' competition. For times and results, click here.
In photos: Top left, Graham during his record-setting swim. Center right, Sanders during his swim. Lower left, Caldwell's backstroke leg of the medley relay team's swim. Photos posted on homepages as of 2/8/07: Homepage: Graham's record-setting swim. Current students' page: Paul Wilson celebrates his win in the second heat. Sports page: Sanders congratulates Graham on new school record.