RECAP | Grizzlies Go Wire-to-Wire, Sweep Team Titles at Liberal Arts Championships

Photos courtesy of Luther College
Photos courtesy of Luther College

DECORAH, Iowa – The Franklin College swimming and diving teams closed out the 2018 Liberal Arts Championships with a pair of dominating performances that earned the Grizzlies some well-deserved hardware to bring back home.

Both the men's and women's teams led the event from start to finish, pulling away from the rest of the field on Sunday. The Franklin men gathered 811 points to win by 248.5 points over second place Nebraska Wesleyan, giving the Grizzlies their fifth straight Liberal Arts Championship.

Meanwhile, the Franklin women made it back-to-back Liberal Arts Championships after earning 815.5 points, winning the 11-team event by nearly 400 points. It was the most combined points by the Grizzlies at this event.

"This team knows how to win," Head coach Andrew Hendricks said. "We just swam seven championship days in the last nine, which is unheard of in this sport. Most collegiate swimmers are trying to peak in just three or four days, and we had to double that. In some cases, we had to sacrifice individual times on the clock for the success of the program, and I am proud of both teams for digging deep and having the maturity to put their teammates and the program first."

The Franklin women notched the first win of the day for either team when Jessica Halsmer took the top spot in the finals of the 200 backstroke with a time of 2:04.30. Mackenzie Dwyer picked up a third place finish in the same event, clocking in at 2:06.69.

Freshman Courtnee Coffman gave the FC women their second gold medal of the day in the finals of the 100 freestyle, taking the top spot with a race of 53.52. The Grizzlies swept the podium in the 10 freestyle, with Jacqueline Richard (53.88) and Karlee Demsey (54.75) taking second and third place.

The FC women picked up their final gold medal of the day in the final relay of the weekend. Brynna Sentel, Amy McCormick, Richard and Coffman blew past the field and set a new pool record with a time of 3:35.24, winning by more than five seconds.

Cady Mehringer added a runner-up finish in the 200 butterfly (2:13.82) while Amy McCormick placed third in the 1650 freestyle (17:42.06). In the finals of the 1-meter diving competition, Lexi Blackburn earned a silver medal finish with 409.15 points.

On the men's side, sophomore James Hone was the team's lone individual event winner after a dominant performance in the finals of the 200 backstroke. The Melbourne, Australia-native set a new venue record with a time of 1:53.10 to win the event by nearly two seconds. Zach Rayce (1:55.08) and Adam Price (1:55.85) turned in strong showings in the same event, finishing third and fourth, respectively.

The men's 400 freestyle relay team put the cherry on top of the Grizzlies' win with a first place finish in the final race of the event. Ben Doss, Jordan Cermak, Sam Hall and Hone set a new pool record in the event with a time of 3:06.79.

Mac Howard earned a runner-up finish in the finals of the 200 butterfly (1:54.61), Rob Warren earned a third place finish in the 1650 freestyle (16:39.17), Hall (46.92) and Doss (47.30) placed second and fourth in the 100 freestyle.

The Franklin women end their season with wins in all 14 events in the 2017-18 season. In addition to picking up their fifth straight Liberal Arts Championship, the Franklin men also picked up their first invitational win of the year on Saturday night.

Several Grizzly individuals are bringing home awards for their performances this weekend. Sentel was named the Women's Swimmer of the Year and Jacob Keener took home Men's Diver of the Year honors. Head coach Andrew Hendricks was named Women's Coach of the Year while assistant coach Dee Woods swept the Men's and Women's Diving Coach of the Year awards.