Swimming, diving compete at nationals

Story by Thom Fountain

The UW-Eau Claire swim and dive teams headed to Minneapolis this weekend for the NCAA Division III Championship and returned with a handful of broken school records.

The events took place Wednesday through Saturday at the University of Minnesota’s Aquatics Center, with preliminary rounds in the morning and finals in the evening. The Blugold women competed in eight preliminary events and three finals, while the men’s diving team competed in two events.

The women’s 800-yard freestyle relay broke the Eau Claire school record, which they had previously set at this year’s conference meet, by two seconds with a time of 7:43.02. The team of junior Casey Preissel, sophomore Nicole Dorvinen, junior Megan Finley and freshman Hannah Ramquist finished 13th overall.

“Everyone on that relay did something special, which is what made them go faster,” coach Art Brandt said.

Preissel broke the individual 200-yard freestyle record with a time of 1:53.56 in her leg in that race.

“That was my goal for the season, to go 1:53 (in the 200-yard freestyle), so I was really excited to do that,” Preissel said.

Dorvinen also broke a school record individually, swimming the 200-yard butterfly in a time of 2:06.71. The time put her in 21st place overall. Dorvinen also finished 14th in the 400-yard individual medley with a time of 4:29.88.

The Blugold’s 200-yard freestyle relay, which consisted of Finley, Preissel, Ramquist and sophomore Julia Olson, finished 16th with a time of 1:37.29.

Freshman Nick Badilla was the sole diver for Eau Claire and finished in 12th place in the three-meter dive with a score of 417.50. Badilla also finished in 21st place in the one-meter dive.

Brandt said swimmers are often slower at nationals because there is a five-week pause after the season ends, so he was especially impressed by Eau Claire’s showing.

“The swimming (at nationals) may not be as fast, but to get there you have to be very fast,” he said. “. Everyone had swims and dives they should be proud of.”

All members of the Eau Claire team were participating in nationals for the first time, and Brandt said that will be beneficial in the future. The swimmers agreed.

“It was really motivating, eye-opening,” Ramquist said.

Looking to the future, Preissel said this year saw a great group of new swimmers, and she expects the same next year, which gives her high hopes. Brandt agreed, saying he is looking forward to next year.