By: Jake Renie
TERRE HAUTE, IN – After three days of thrilling competition, the Franklin College swimming and diving teams are bringing home all of the hardware after sweeping the team championships at the 2019 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) championships.
The women rolled to their second straight conference title, finishing a dominant weekend with 796 points, more than double of second-place Rose-Hulman. The Franklin men needed every point the got, waiting until the final event of the weekend to claim their first conference title, claiming victory in the last relay of the weekend to edge Rose-Hulman with 723.5 points.
"This was one of the greatest sports moments I've ever been involved with," Head coach Andy Hendricks said afterwards. "Every time we challenged our women, they responded by beating those expectations. They did something I haven't seen before and we are very excited about our impending trip to nationals after setting several pool records, conference records and team records. For the men, it took every single point from every single person and it all came down to one race. Strategy worked but guts made it happen. This was one of those special moments that these swimmers and divers will never forget."
Mackenzie Dwyer and Jessica Halsmer kicked off the final session with a one-two finish in the women's 200 back. Dwyer finished with the silver medal on her 2:07.79 finish, right behind Halsmer who brought home both a gold medal and an NCAA B-cut with her 2:03.08 final time. The men matched their energy in the same event, claiming the top two spots on the podium. Zach Rayce was the second-place finisher in a 1:54.94 time, with teammate James Hone claiming first-place with a stellar 1:53.28 swim.
The women's team kept it rolling in the 100 free, with Jaqueline Richard and Courtnee Coffman going 1-2 in the event. Richard beat out the third-place finisher by less than a half second, touching at a time of 53.74 to finish second overall. Coffman blew past the competition and past her own school record on her way to a gold medal time and an NCAA B-cut standard with a time of 51.60 seconds. Ben Doss was the leading Grizzly in the men's 100 free, placing second in the field on a 46.90 swim.
August Hartzell dropped a couple seconds from this morning to place second overall in the women's 200 breaststroke. Dylan Harker set a new program record in the men's 200 breaststroke, clocking in at 2:07.79 on his way to a bronze medal finish.
The women swept all medals in the 200 fly with Rylee Elder, Anna Perkins and Cady Mehringer all reaching the podium. Mehringer stole the show with a gold medal performance and a 2:10.55 time, breaking the school record in the event. Perkins took silver with a time of 2:12.07 while Elder's 2:20.95 took bronze. The men replied with a sweep of their own, as Mac Howard finished third (1:55.41), Noah Tallman touched second (1:55.03), and Charlie Hall took home gold and set a new school record in the 200 fly with a 1:53.55 swim.
Will Combs was the lone diver to perform on the final night, sealing a silver medal to his name in men's one-meter. The event boded well for him, as his final total of 507 points was more than enough to qualify for nationals.
Franklin ended the HCAC championships with a sweep in the 400 free relays. The women were led by Halsmer, Richard, Brynna Sentel, and Coffman to a 3:31.12 gold medal time. That time also set in stone the final women's school record of the weekend.
Heading into the final event trailing by half-a-point, the Grizzly men needed a victory in the 400 free relay to lock down their first ever conference championship. The quartet of Hone, Caleb Strange, Jordan Cermak and Doss were more than up to the task, besting the field with a time of 3:05.16 to push the Grizzlies past Rose-Hulman for first place overall.
With some Grizzly swimmer and divers qualifying for the NCAA DIII Championships, they prepare to step up with the best in Division III. Those championships will commence from March 20 – 23 in Greensboro, North Carolina.