Men get second at WIAC championship, women third

Story by Briana Gruenewald

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The men’s swimming and diving team swam hard to earn second place, which Coach Art Brandt said is the best they’ve placed since the 1999-00 season. The women got third place for the eighth year in a row.

Brandt said it was the “most phenomenal” meet he’s ever coached and describes the men placing second as “awesome.”

“(Placing second) is huge,” said junior Jon Poppele. “As soon as they called out Eau Claire as second, the entire stands lit up with everyone screaming and jumping around. Quite frankly we didn’t even see that kind of reaction out of Stevens Point when they were announced as the winners.”

Brandt and several swimmers agree that the WIAC Championships were full of energy and emotion.

“Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe how our team swam — men and women,” junior Nicole Dorvinen said. “I’ve been swimming competitively for 12-plus years and I have never been a part of a team that has swam so amazing and come together when it mattered.”

Finding it difficult to articulate exactly how the competition went, Brandt said the women’s 400-yard free style relay, the last conference event for the women, epitomized the weekend as a whole.

Casey Preissel, one of two seniors in the four-woman relay, described it as the “culmination of her career.”

“There was a lot riding on it and we really, really wanted to do well,” she said. “We had some pretty hefty goals in mind.”

Because of a relay member’s false start the relay was disqualified, even though Preissel said they all swam hard, shattering their record from last year. She said everyone was “completely torn apart” following the disqualification.

Preissel said the team was able to get a time trial and swim the event again. The Blugold team was the only one in the pool, with most spectators, including the UW-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater teams, watching and cheering Eau Claire on. The women swam the relay even faster than they did the first time and Dorvinen said everyone was in tears.

“What could have been an absolutely horrible thing turned into being something really great,” Preissel said.

Brandt said individual swimmers that stood out were Poppele and Dorvinen.

Poppele set a new school record in the 200-yard backstroke event, earning him a DIII “B-cut.” Dorvinen, the only Blugold swimmer to earn an “A-cut” and automatically qualify for nationals, broke her own record from last year in the 200-yard butterfly race.

Dorvinen was named top swimmer of the meet, an honor she said she has been working for all season. Teammate Preissel said she was not surprised Dorvinen earned the title.

“If Nicole is racing somebody, she is not going to let them beat her; that is not an option in her book,” Preissel said. “She’s an absolutely mentally strong swimmer.”

Another honor, coach of the year, was given to coach Brandt. Poppele said the honor is “absolutely deserved,” a sentiment agreed upon by many swimmers on the team.
“He (Brandt) is definitely the coach who cares about his team,” Preissel said. “He knows each and every one of his swimmers and wants them to do well.”
At this time, it is unknown which Blugolds will join Dorvinen in Knoxville, Tenn. at the NCAA Division III Championships March 23-26.

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